One of the more interesting results this one:
Day 5 of the Cov Blog’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) 2019 poll results.
And this time it’s 8th place that’s up for grabs.
And today you voted for:
Interesting because, almost unbelievably, despite joining Cov for the start of the 2016/17 season Tony Fenner failed to make it into the top 12 in either the 2016 or 2017 polls.
Yet here he is, in 8th place in a squad that is significantly stronger than either of those in 2016 or 2017 and ahead of players who have graced the Premiership and been talked of in terms of potential full international honours at various stages in their careers.
Third time lucky it is then, and much deserved too.
Tony F arrived at the BPA as a 26 year old from French side Limoges. Little information was given as news of his arrival was in the form of a 5 player announcement in May 2016, the others being Will Maisey, Eoghan Grace, Darrell Dyer and Sam Harry . It was it bit underwhelming at the time and all we were told of him was that he was comfortable at fly half, centre or fullback, and that he had previously played for Auckland in the ITM Cup, Edinburgh in the Pro 12 and Championship side Bedford Blues.
A player with some pedigree then.
Although making 22 appearances (20 starts) in Rowland Winter’s first season, unfortunately Tony F suffered a number of injuries in the next two seasons which meant that he only made 10 starts in 2017/18 in Cov’s promotion winning season. And despite playing in all of the first 11 games in the Championship last season (10 starts), he was injured in the high scoring game at Bedford and was then out for the remainder of the year.
He has yet to make a start in the Championship this season, although he has made 4 appearances from altogether since his return this season.
It was TF’s form up to January of last season that really caught the eye and despite impressing at times in National One, TF looked made for the Championship. It was a tough first season back for Cov and it took a number of very experienced Cov players a good while to bed into the new league.
Tony Fenner however, took to the Championship like a duck to water and without question he was one of the real success stories in 2018/19. But for injury, he would have doubtless made many more appearances.
With good hands and a safe boot, he seems to have more time than most and was arguably the most consistent Cov player in the first half of last season. Despite having ‘less meat on him that you’d see on a butcher’s apron’ (as Sue would say), he is a fearsome tackler and I reckon, pound for pound, hits as hard as anyone in the current squad.
Few players put their bodies on the line quite as much as he does which in part explains why he has succumbed to injuries in the last couple of seasons. He seems a really quiet, totally unassuming sort of guy and has always tended to do his talking on the pitch, which is one of the reasons he is so popular with supporters. His ability to slot in anywhere from 10-15 has made him such a valuable member of the match day squads, although in a sense he is a victim of his own versatility in many respects as it also makes him the ideal player to have on the bench.
The high regard in which he is held by coaches, too, was acknowledged at the Players’ Awards Dinner earlier this year when he received the Coaches’ Player of the Season Award from Head Coach Nick Walshe who commended TF for his effort, professionalism and commitment during the course of the season, as well as for his work ‘assisting the coaches with analysis and game preparation since his injury’ (Cov website).
Tony Fenner also recently made it into Phil Boulton’s Dream XV in The Rugby Paper – for those unaware of what this is, each week a player selects his dream side made up of players he has either played with or against. Phil Boulton has played with the great and good for many seasons, so for him to pick Tony Fenner was a real vote of confidence in him.
In selecting TF, Phil Boulton described him as being ‘ so smart that he makes others look brilliant’ – so respect from players as well as coaches then.
And there’s no real surprise that earlier in the year the club extended ‘the 29-year-old utility back’s’ contract at the Butts Park Arena until the end of the 2021-22 season.
Responding to the news of his contract extension, Tony F was clearly delighted:
‘I am so happy to have agreed a long-term contract with this great club, I am really excited about our next few years and want to be a part of every step as we build. I want to thank the coaches, players and fans for the continued support, I love pulling on the Cov shirt to represent this club and city.’
And whilst most players will make reference to the players and supporters, it’s not often you hear mention of the pride a player has in the city too. And he’s not even a local lad.
It would be wrong to finish without making mention of the work Tony Fenner does within the local community as well, both in schools and in the Club’s rugby camps. He’s not alone amongst Coventry players for such commitment to the youngsters in the city, but it is a role which he takes extremely seriously and I know from speaking to some of the parents of those he has supported, his work is much appreciated by the youngsters involved.
I was delighted to see Tony Fenner make an appearance in the Blog’s MVP poll. For me, it is one that’s been long overdue.
Tony Fenner,then, comes in at 8 in the Blog’s MVP poll.
It’s the 6th Day of Christmas tomorrow and things start to get even more interesting.
So far then:
Day 5 – Tony Fenner (8th)
Day 4 – Luke Wallace (9th)
Day 3 – Henry Purdy (10th)
Day 2 – Adam Peters (11th)
Day 1 – Senitiki Nayalo (12th)