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Ulster's big winners to be unveiled at glitzy awards night

By Niall Crozier

The great and the good of Ulster Rugby will be at Belfast's Culloden Hotel tonight for the Heineken Ulster Rugby Awards Dinner.

Given that it brings together the pick of the provincial crop in celebration of achievements at all levels over the course of the season it is always one of the most eagerly anticipated dates in the rugby calendar.

With Ulster's seniors today due back from Portugal where they have spent the past four days preparing for their Heineken Cup final showdown with Leinster at Twickenham nine days from now, they are assured of a rousing reception.

But the awards dinner is not just about the big names, for as well as excellence in the professional game the event exists to acknowledge accomplishments at schools, youth and club levels.

That is its appeal - all of those deserving of recognition have their moment in the spotlight, thereby ensuring that patrons are reminded of the importance of the structure which underpins the game in Ulster. It's not just about those at the top of the pyramid; it's about all of those whose place below enables others to be at the pinnacle.

Eleven winners will be named tonight, with the biggest prize being the Personality of the Year Award which goes to the player, coach, official or administrator who, during the season, has done most to raise the profile of Ulster Rugby.

Last year Johann Muller crowned an outstanding debut season by collecting the coveted prize for his work for Ulster Rugby on and off the field.

Who will succeed him? That remains a closely-guarded secret, for as with the Ulster Rugby Supporters' Club Player of the Year and the Perennials' Dorrington B. Faulkner 'Unsung Hero' awards, there is no shortlist. The first the winner of any of those three prizes will know of his success is when his name is announced tonight.

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