THE IRISH RUGBY Union Players Association is honouring the memory of Nevin Spence by naming its Young Player of the Year award after the Ulsterman from this season on.
The promising centre, aged 23, passed away on 15 September last year after going to assist his stricken father in a slurry tank on the Spence family farm in Hillsborough.
Spence was awarded the IRUPA Young Player accolade in 2011 and, according to a statement from the association, ‘its members, the players, believe it is a very fitting tribute to Nevin and his family’.
Spence played 42 games for Ulster since his debut, as a 19-year-old, in 2010. He was capped at Ireland U20 level and played for the Irish Wolfhounds, with many in the game believing a call-up to the senior team would come in 2013, before the tragedy occurred.
Commenting on the announcement, IRUPA representative for Ulster Rugby, Rory Best, “On behalf of [our] members, I welcome the dedication of this Award in memory of our team mate, friend and an outstanding young man.
In 2011, Nevin was chosen by the members as their Young Player of the Year, displaying talent, strength and commitment, attributes that he carried with him everyday both on the playing field and in life. In his short career, Nevin had a very positive influence on Ulster Rugby, Ireland, his team, friends and family, his memory lives on with us every day and through this Award we know his influence will continue.
“I would like to thank the Spence family, Ulster Rugby, IRUPA and the IRFU for their support in dedication of this award.”
Speaking to TheScore.ie last week, Ulster’s Iain Henderson said, “Nevin’s never going to be forgotten amongst the squad. He was a cornerstone of the squad. He always brought something different to training; always had a smiling face and be cracking jokes.”
Henderson added, “The ‘N.S’ is still on the shirts and ‘GG’ [Physio Gareth Robinson] got a new physio bag with ‘Nevin Spence’ written along the side of it. He definitely won’t be forgotten.”
The accolade will be presented at the Hibernia College IRUPA Awards, which take place on 8 May at Dublin’s Burlington Hotel.