MACQUARIE prop Danny Vaughan was the shining light in an otherwise disappointing year for the Scorpions when he was named Newcastle Rugby League player of the year last night.
Vaughan was the runaway winner, finishing on 26 points, and his nearest rivals in the vote were Cessnock man mountain Sione Finefeuiaki and Wyong hooker Mitch Williams on 18 points.
Completing an amazing year in which three of the top four players were front-rowers, Central Charlestown prop Hayden Jeans was fourth on 16 points.
In-form Cessnock hooker Chris Adams polled 15 votes in 10 matches and would have threatened Vaughan but for a broken arm that ruled him out of the last seven games.
Adams, 22, was named representative player of the year, after gaining NSW Country and NSW Residents selection, and is hoping to be back on deck when Cessnock play in the major semi-final.
The Goannas also picked up the leading tryscorer of the year award courtesy of rampaging winger Willie Pole'o who scored 24, three more than Western Suburbs centre David Pangai.
Cessnock's Todd Edwards gained his second coach of the year award.
Wyong fullback Josh Mantellato picked up the pointscoring award, but it was the year of the big men and Vaughan stood tallest.
Much was made of the Scorpions' chances this season after Vaughan and Kurri Kurri duo Jacob Briggs and Dan Stuart were added to a side that made the finals in 2008.
They finished sixth after scoring three wins in their last four games, but their finals hopes were effectively over halfway through the year.
Vaughan was playing his first season with the Scorpions after injury-plagued stints with NRL clubs Newcastle and Melbourne.
The tackle-busting prop from Sawtell burst onto the scene in Newcastle in 2005 when he moved from the Central Coast to play for Maitland at age 21.
He gained selection in the Newcastle, NSW Country and NSW Residents teams and finished the year playing for the Knights Premier League (reserve-grade) side.
Such was his impact that he was offered a modest one-year deal with Newcastle for 2006 but shared his time between playing reserve grade for the Knights and club footy for Maitland.
He showed enough that season to gain a two-year deal with the Storm, but two knee reconstructions in two years curtailed any hopes he had of playing for them.
Vaughan was resigned to the fact his NRL career was over, but a full season as the standout player in Newcastle at the age of 25 may attract an offer from a top-flight club.