The awards were announced at a special dinner in the Underwood Suite at Welford Road, hosted by Tigers as a thank-you to all the player sponsors who have played such an important part in the club this season.
Deacon, who has made 23 first-team starts in 2007/08 and who skippered the side during Martin Corry’s World Cup absence, was delighted to receive the accolade, even if the award came as a huge shock to the 27-year-old.
“I was very surprised,” said Deacon, who made his Tigers debut in 2000 and has since gone on to make 187 appearances for the club. “I genuinely didn’t expect it. When they read out that the winner was a forward, I thought it would be someone like Jordan or Castro. I wasn’t expecting it one bit.
“To be voted for by the guys you play and train with week-in-week-out is a great feeling. I’ve been suffering quite a lot recently with injury, but to win something like this makes it all worthwhile.”
While Deacon admits that the current season hasn’t lived up to expectations for Tigers, he believes that the squad has the ability to bounce back.
“It’s been a disappointing year so far. It’s been frustrating that we haven’t been able to emulate last season but the Premiership is getting tougher and tougher and there are no easy games.
“When we play to our best, we can beat anybody but we’ve been inconsistent and that’s what’s let us down. We’ve had disruptions with the World Cup and the Six Nations, but that’s no excuse at a club like Leicester.”
Deacon was quick to praise fellow forward Croft, whose dynamic performances this year have seen him make a real impression with both club and international selectors alike.
“He’s had a great season and he’s been rewarded with an England call up,” said Deacon. “He’s another local, up-and-coming player and I hope the club keeps moving forward in the same direction that it always has done. We’ve always had pride in our academy. The club has a great history of players coming through the ranks and that’s one of the things that makes Leicester Tigers what it is.”
For Croft, the award was equally unexpected but the 22-year-old flanker won’t be getting carried away as he knows he faces a battle to cement his position in both the Tigers and England set-ups.
“It’s a huge honour,” said Croft. “The season’s gone so quickly, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m not a regular in the Tigers team at the minute so I know I’ve still got so much to work on. If I get to go on the summer tour with England or get selected for the autumn internationals then I’m sure it will help my game but Leicester is my main priority.
“We’ve got to make sure we qualify for the Heineken Cup this Saturday and, if we get the chance to get into the play offs, we’ve got to make sure we take advantage of that.”