Departing Ulster captain Rory Best was the toast of the Ulster Rugby annual awards gala dinner on Thursday night when he was honoured in receiving the Heineken ‘personality of the year’.
The 36-year-old talismanic figure will retire from the professional game when Ireland’s participation in the Rugby World Cup in Japan this autumn ends.
Best received a standing ovation at last night’s awards held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast, when the rugby community came together to celebrate what has been a successful year both professionally and domestically.
The popular figure played his last home game for Ulster at Kingspan Stadium in the 21-13 win over Connacht in the Guinness PRO14 semi-final qualifiers.
Best’s ‘Ulster Farewell’ now rolls on to Scotstoun when Ulster meet Glasgow Warriors in the PRO14 semi-finals on Friday, May 17, with the hope being that he will lead the side on to Celtic Park, Glasgow a week later for the final against either Leinster or Munster.
Best - who has made 220 appearances to date for Ulster - was acknowledged for his contribution to Ulster Rugby – on and off the field – as his performances, commitment and pride in the jersey have made him a true favourite among teammates, coaches, staff and supporters.
The international hooker began his rugby development at Banbridge, where he is still involved, while he also played at Portadown College and Belfast Harlequins on route to the professional game.
He made his competitive debut for Ulster in 2004 and was a key member of the squad which won the Celtic League title in 2005/06.
Best was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours.
Best is Ulster’s most-capped international with 116 appearances (10 tries) and has helped Ireland win the Six Nations Championship on four occasions, including two Grand Slam successes.
He also captained Ireland to its first ever win against New Zealand in 2016.