The talented duo beat off the challenge of a raft of Oceania’s finest players to receive the accolades and were announced as winners at the 2010 New Zealand Football Awards in Auckland on Friday night.
The prestigious event was attended by many Australasian-based All Whites, who are currently in a domestic camp ahead of internationals against Mexico and Australia, and New Zealand women’s squad the Football Ferns, who are gearing up for next month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany.
OFC’s top awards are presented to the footballers, male and female, deemed to be the best amongst their peers for the calendar year based on individual performances at FIFA and OFC events as well as personal characteristics such as leadership, fairplay and impact on teammates at club and national level.
Voting was open to members of the OFC Executive Committee as well as Presidents, general secretaries, national team coaches and technical directors from each of the 11 Member Associations within Oceania.
Despite a strong field in both categories, Nelsen and Riley emerged as clear winners after 12 months of both personal milestones and major contributions to team success.
It is the second time each player has received this award – Nelsen claimed his first gong in 2006 while Riley has successfully defended the title she first picked up in 2009.
Nelsen had plenty of competition from the likes of fellow FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 stars Winston Reid, Shane Smeltz and Mark Paston, Hekari United pair Kema Jack and David Muta, and New Caledonia captain and 2010 O-League Golden Ball winner Pierre Wajoka. But the Blackburn Rovers defender claimed the win thanks to his continued good form in the English Premier League and his inspirational performances in captaining the All Whites to an undefeated showing at the World Cup.
Those performances lead to the 33-year-old being singled out as an ‘Outstanding Player’ of the tournament by the FIFA Technical Study Group, as was teammate Paston.
Riley, 23, also enjoyed a remarkable year but likewise faced challenges from several of her Football Ferns colleagues, namely Amber Hearn, Hayley Moorwood, Rebecca Smith and Ria Percival, as well as other Pacific Island stars such as Cook Islands captain Mama Henry and Papua New Guinea internationals Deslyne Siniu and Zeen Limbai, who helped their country to a runners-up placing at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2010.
Riley held on to earn the title for the second year running after being named Women’s Professional League (WPS) Rookie of the Year 2010 in the United States and starring for former club FC Gold Pride as the team won the WPS championship.
The utility player now lines up for Western New York Flash in the WPS and is closing in on 50 appearances for the Football Ferns, a feat she could achieve at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany during June and July.
“The players of the Pacific achieved a wealth of milestones during 2010 and it’s important that we recognise these efforts,” says OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas.
“We have had a very high calibre of candidates, not only from New Zealand, but from right across the Oceania region. Ryan and Ali have stood out amongst their peers and are fully deserving of these awards.”
Fred de Jong, OFC Executive Member and NZF Board Member, presented the awards on behalf of OFC President David Chung, who is currently in Zurich. Nelsen and Riley, both based overseas, could not attend the awards night so picking up the awards on their behalf were NZF CEO Grant McKavanagh and Football Ferns coach John Herdman.
The awards began in 1988 and Frank Farina from Australia – which is now a member of the Asian Football Confederation – was the first recipient. Other notable names to have picked up the male Player of the Year gong include New Zealand’s Wynton Rufer (1989, 1990, 1992), Shane Smeltz (2007, 2008), Australia’s Harry Kewell (1999, 2001, 2003), Robbie Slater (1991, 1993), Mark Viduka (2000), Mark Bosnich (1997), Tim Cahill (2004) and Brett Emerton (2002), and New Caledonia’s Christian Karembeu (1995, 1998).
In 1999, Rufer was named OFC Player of the Century, while Bosnich was singled out as the OFC Goalkeeper of the Century.
For the full list of 2010 nominees please see below.
OFC Player of the Year Award 2010 (Men)
Pierre WAJOKA (NCL): AS Magenta (captain), New Caledonia International (captain) Golden Ball 2010 O-League
Ryan NELSEN (NZL): Blackburn Rovers (England), New Zealand International, ‘Outstanding Player’ FIFA Technical Study Group FWC 2010
Mark PASTON (NZL): Wellington Phoenix FC, New Zealand International, ‘Outstanding Player’ FIFA Technical Study Group FWC 2010
Winston REID (NZL): FC Midtjylland (Denmark), West Ham United (England), New Zealand International
Shane SMELTZ (NZL): Gold Coast United (Australia), New Zealand International
Kema JACK (PNG): Hekari United, Papua New Guinea International
David MUTA (PNG): Hekari United, Papua New Guinea International
Elliot RAGOMO (SOL): Solomon Islands Futsal (captain), Golden Boot and Golden Ball OFC Futsal Championship 2010
Marama VAHIRUA (TAH): FC Lorient, AS Nancy (French League 1)
Seule SOROMON (VAN): Youngheart Manawatu, NZFC All Stars 2010, NZFC Golden Boot 2010, Vanuatu International
OFC Player of the Year Award 2010 (Women)
Mama HENRY (COK): Onehunga Mangere United, Cook Islands U-20, Cook Islands International (captain)
Marjorie TORU (COK): Avatiu, Cook Islands U-20, Cook Islands International, Golden Glove OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2010
Amber HEARN (NZL): Lynn Avon Utd, Ottawa Fury (Canada), New Zealand International, Golden Boot OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2010
Hayley MOORWOOD (NZL): Fencibles United, Chelsea FC (England), New Zealand International (captain)
Ali RILEY (NZL): FC Gold Pride (USA), New Zealand International, Women’s Professional League (USA) Rookie of the Year 2010
Rebecca SMITH (NZL): Vfl Wolfsburg (Germany), New Zealand International
Ria PERCIVAL (NZL): Lynn Avon United/Ottawa Fury (Canada), New Zealand International, Golden Ball OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2010
Deslyne SINIU (PNG): Papua New Guinea International (captain)
Zeen LIMBAI (PNG): Papua New Guinea International
Prudence FULA (SOL): Solomon Islands International