Leicester Tigers’ academy squad enjoyed their graduation presentations as part of a 25,000-plus home crowd at Welford Road on Saturday.
Introduced to the crowd on the pitch at half-time, the players were presented with their individual lettered shirts by Tom Croft who came through the academy ranks at the club to star with Tigers, England and on two tours with the British & Irish Lions.
The presentations marked the formal end of their two years in the academy group, during which time the team have remained unbeaten at under-18 level and won the league title in successive seasons.
Afterwards, the players and their parents joined coaches and staff in the Clubhouse at Welford Road for post-match hospitality and their annual awards presentations.
Academy manager Dave Wilks said: “Credit goes to a lot of people who all put a lot into the academy. There is a lot of hard work behind the scenes and a lot of people put thought and effort and care into the programme.
“This year the players have had the ‘Champions’ tag on your heads and some pressure on you but you’ve done really well to deal with it. What you have shown is a whole load of commitment and desire to get better. Winning is a result of that.”
The Coaches’ Player of the Year award was presented by academy head coach Jamie Taylor to back-rower Sam Eveleigh who captained the team in the League Final win over Gloucester.
Taylor said: “There were five or six players in the reckoning to win this and we felt the winner really summed up the values of the group and the academy. Sam is someone who at the end of the Final was throwing themselves off the line, making tackles again and again, and hit that final tackle at a key point in the game.”
Back-rower Ollie Ashworth received the Players’ Player of the Year award and the Endeavour Award went to Alex Maxwell.