Newcastle Falcons’ hooker George McGuigan was today named Gallagher Player of the Month for March – and acclaimed as a "shining light" within the club and league by BT Sport pundit and Gallagher ambassador, Ugo Monye.
McGuigan hit scintillating form in March to take the prize, and finish the month as the leading try-scorer in the Gallagher Premiership, a crucial cog in the club's campaign according to Monye, who feels that England honours could beckon for the player.
"George's performances have been of an exceptionally high standard in almost every part of his game,” said Monye. “I think when you look at him, he has made a far greater contribution to his side as an individual than perhaps any other player in any other team this month.”
Commenting that, “he's been knocking on the door for England for a little while now,” Monye pointed to competition for a place both within the Gallagher Premiership as well as closer to home in Jamie Blamire. “But George is the number one at Newcastle, and if you want to talk about contributions, he has contributed almost 20 per cent of all the metres made for Newcastle this season and is the top scorer in the league.
"He is an outstanding player, and I think for him, all he can do is remain focused and patient but also keep putting in the level of performances that he has done not just this month but throughout the season and in previous seasons."
Falcons fan and Director of Gallagher’s Newcastle branch (pictured above, with George McGuigan) Frank Firth, said: “As the league’s leading try-scorer, with an impressive hat-trick in the tightly fought match against Wasps, George McGuigan is a very worthy winner of Gallagher Player of the Month and it was a pleasure to present him with his award.
“The results in March may not have gone Falcons’ way but the team was always threatening and George was on stellar form, picking up and powering over the line on the back of many a rolling maul. This created some great rugby for all the loyal and local supporters here in Newcastle and ultimately built up to an emphatic away win over Worcester Warriors last weekend. Congratulations George.”
Northampton Saints' scrum-half Alex Mitchell was the runner-up this month with Tigers' hooker Julian Montoya third, and Monye believes there has been a change in style right across the league this season. "What we're seeing in Gallagher Premiership Rugby this season is that the successful teams are built on a really good attack, and I think that's George's best attribute.
"His lines of running and the timing of his runs, as well as his understanding of where space is, is brilliant. Making dents into defences, running into holes or creating space for other people, that is where he has really grown as a player this year. Notwithstanding, his set-piece is always very solid at the lineout and scrum.”
Monye said McGuigan’s award win is a real testament to him as a player as “ordinarily we would be picking players in the top half of the table, and Newcastle Falcons is not one of those teams”.
As part of his prize for being named Gallagher Player of the Month, McGuigan wins a shirt signed by the whole Newcastle Falcons squad and framed by Gallagher to gift to a charity of his choice, to help them raise funds for their chosen cause.
McGuigan was voted for by a panel of media professionals based on his performances in March 2022, alongside a public poll on the Premiership Rugby app, which drew 1266 votes.
The judges were: Nick Mullins (BT Sport), Alastair Eykyn (BT Sport), Gavin Mairs (The Daily Telegraph), Sarah Mockford (Rugby World), Hugh Godwin (I), Andrew Baldock (Press Association), Bobby Bridge (Coventry Telegraph), John Everly (Bristol Post and Bath Chronicle) Jill Douglas (Broadcaster), Craig Swayne (@BallcarrierRugby), Chris Jones (BBC 5 Live), David Rogers (Getty Images) and Tom Hamilton (ESPN). The panel was chaired by Paul Morgan, Premiership Rugby's Communications Director.