ANTHONY FARRELL is the first winner of the Neil Whittaker Festival Trophy.
The former Fartown and Leeds star took the highly prestigious award ahead of fellow nominees Paul Reilly, Keith Senior, Nathan Sykes and Darren Turner.
The award has been named in memory of the late Fartown stalwart Neil Whittaker.
It honours the professional rugby league player who has contributed most to the sport in the town.
All five nominations had exceptionally strong pedigrees.
But the decision to name Farrell as the inaugural winner proved popular among those at last night's hugely successful presentation night at the Fartown Pavilion.
And the Widnes second rower, who is set to retire after Sunday's Super League clash at Halifax, said receiving the award means an incredible amount to him.
"It's a privilege and an honour to collect an award bearing the name of Neil Whittaker," said Farrell, who is also Huddersfield Sharks coach.
"I owe a tremendous amount to Neil, and I'm sure that if it hadn't been for him I wouldn't have achieved so much in my career.
"It was Neil and Steve Cushing who were my coaches at Deighton when I was a junior and they pointed me in the right direction.
"I've always regarded Neil as a father figure and his home has always been a halfway house for me.
"I had to go past his house to get to school and if ever I needed some advice I always knew I would be guaranteed the warmest welcome.
"But what also makes this award extra special is that I've got the nod ahead of four quality and highly-respected rugby league players.
"Winning this award really is a massive honour."
The fact that Farrell is due to retire at the end of this season will have counted in his favour, as the award is only open to those currently playing the game at the professional level.
That means Giants duo Reilly and Turner, Leeds centre Senior and Castleford prop Sykes can all be nominated in the future.
And with all four having enjoyed outstanding top-flight careers, they will be among the favourites to win next year.
But last night was all about 34-year-old Farrell, who has been a professional for 18 years.
As well as leading the Sharks in the National Conference League Second Division, he is heavily involved with the junior set-up at Newsome Panthers.