Photos by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com

The Vancouver Nighthawks season may not have gone the way they and we wanted it to, but there were still plenty of outstanding performances this year. Behold the 2015 team award winners!

The first set of awards was chosen by team insiders and senior staff.

Outstanding Offensive Player | Morgan Hibbert

Last season, Hibbert won the Western Conference award for being the best defensive player, but circumstances forced him to change his role on the Nighthawks this season. Inexperience and injuries meant Morgatron had to become the fulcrum of the Nighthawks O-line, and he came through with flying colours. By season’s end, Hibbert had racked up a total of 21 goals, tying him for eighth in the MLU, and a league-leading 34 assists for a total of 55 points, ranking him second in the league, and he completed almost 92 percent of his passes. Not bad for a player renowned for his defence…

Outstanding Defensive Player and Rookie of the Year – Nathan Lam

Given that Hibbert had to divert much of his energy to powering the offense, others had to step up on the D-line, and the best of those was clearly the unheralded Lam, a 29-year-old from Victoria who had never before tested himself in top level competition like the MLU. Did he ever pass that test! His hard work and hustle made him the focal point of developing the defensive pressure that was the key for a D-line that made huge strides through the season. Lam racked up 10 blocks and found time to chip in with eight goals to boot. And to think Lam didn’t even start plying till his mid-twenties…

Most Exciting Player – William Vu

This was a tough choice with several outstanding candidates in the running, but in the end William Vu’s throwing skills and attitude won him the nod.

When Vu has the disc in his hands, you can’t take your eyes off him. Just ask his teammates, who commented more than once during the season that they had to always be ready to catch an unexpected throw. For a young player, Vu has remarkable command of the disc, particularly his array of almost indefensible scoobers and high release throws, and he already has the vision of an experienced handler, seeing throws no one else does and having the skill to complete them. And being left-handed, changing the angles for the defense, just makes his throwing more effective.

Above all, Vu exudes cool on the field; he never seems to get ruffled. During the very last point of the season, in a game against the Rainmakers that was tied 19-19, the Nighthawks forced a turn with 15 seconds left. Most players would have hustled as fast as they could to the disc waiting for them on the sidelines 15 metres out from the Seattle end zone, but instead Vu just strolled over and picked it up, allowing the clock to run down to under 10 seconds left before the disc even got into play. Instead of panicking and forcing a low percentage throw like so many would, Vu stayed calm and surveyed the situation in the end zone. When he saw nothing, he instead got the disc over to Hibbert just before the stall count ran out, leaving just enough time for Hibbert to find Lam in the end zone for the winning goal.

Did Vu take his time getting to the disc in the hopes he could make the pass for the winning goal himself just as time ran out? He’ll never tell you…

The remaining team awards were voted on by the players.

Most Valuable Player – Morgan Hibbert

This was an easy choice – Hibbert in a landslide.

Besides the offensive achievements outlined above, Morgatron also found time to tie for the MLU lead in blocks with a total of 17. But perhaps most revealing of how important he was to this year’s version of the Nighthawks was that he played no fewer than 284 points this season, an average of over 28 a game, and a full 74 ahead of the next-highest total. (That was amassed by teammate Dave Hochhalter, with fellow Nighthawk Bobo Eyrich just behind at 206 points played.) Unfortunately historical league statistics are at this moment not available to confirm it, but the MLU’s head statistician has assured me that he is certain 284 points played is a league record for a season, and by a country mile.

Sad to say, the Nighthawks poor win-loss record may cause voters to overlook Hibbert for the Western Conference MVP award this season, but to anyone who watched him play week in and week out, there is no doubt that removing Hibbert from the Nighthawks line-up would have had a far greater effect on his team than removing any other player in the conference from their team’s line-up. Just imagine the Nighthawks having to find someone to fill those 28 plays per game in the stead of arguably the best player in the league.

Most Underrated Player – Nathan Lam

It’s no surprise Nathan Lam was chosen by his peers for this award. His hustle and energy don’t translate into flashy numbers, but whether playing beside him on the field or watching from the sidelines, his teammates clearly understand what he brings to the Nighthawks D-line. He was the engine that drove that car.

Perhaps the best measure of the esteem in which Lam is held by his teammates occurred after he scored the above-mentioned last second winning goal against Seattle. After scoring, he headed for the nearby Nighthawks bench to celebrate with his teammates, and the unbridled joy with which they shared his celebration spoke volumes.

I don’t think he’ll be able to win this particular award again; the secret is out…

Serving Their Country

Special kudos go to three members of the Nighthawks who, right after the season ended, headed over to London as part of the Open team that represented Canada in the WFDF Under-23 World Championships. The team rolled through their opposition until they lost the gold medal final to the U.S.

William Vu, Samson Hoy and Nicholas Lin, the Nighthawks salute you!

Here’s a full list of the weekly League Awards won by members of the Nighthawks this season.

Week 2 Friction Gloves Catch of the Week – Aaron Loach

Week 3 Innova Pulsar Throw of the Week – William Vu

Week 6 Innova Pulsar Throw of the Week – William Vu

Week 8 Defensive Play of the Week – Morgan Hibbert

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