WELLINGTON - Brilliant No.8 Kieran Read has served a reminder to the All Blacks about the chasing pack after they swept the International Rugby Board awards — including his own player of the year honour.
Read was the standout performer in a New Zealand side which won 14 from 14 Tests in 2013, becoming the first team in the professional era to complete a perfect calendar year.
Australia unsurprisingly missed out on all three gongs at the season-ending honours announced yesterday morning.
The All Blacks were named team of the year, while Steve Hansen was coach of the year.
Dynamic forward Read became the third All Black to win the player award after Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, who have won it five times between them.
The 28-year-old from Canterbury was nominated alongside teammate Ben Smith, Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny, South African lock Eben Etzebeth and Italian No.8 Sergio Parisse.
Halfpenny was regarded as a strong contender following his exploits for Wales and the British and Irish Lions but the judging panel, comprised of nine former Test players, deemed that Read's deeds couldn't be ignored.
He performed his traditional duties with aplomb while proving to be a potent attacking force in open space.
Read says the award could be attributed to the quality of the All Blacks but warned they can't expect the same degree of dominance next year.
"There's a little gap but teams are catching up," Read told Radio New Zealand.
"South Africa is really close, they're building pretty nicely. And a couple of northern teams — England and Wales — are pretty good sides, so we've got to keep improving."
Read said the nailbiting 24-22 win over lowly-ranked Ireland in Dublin was the wakeup call the All Blacks needed.