Nick Williams was left bitterly disappointed two weeks ago when he discovered his season was over due to a nagging shoulder injury.
With Ulster now chasing down the Guinness PRO12 title the Polynesian Powerhouse will potentially miss out playing in a major final with the club he leaves this summer.
But Williams got the send off he deserved when he collected the top accolade at Thursday night’s Ulster Rugby awards gala dinner.
‘Big Nick’ as he has become affectionately known over the past four seasons in Belfast was named Heineken Ulster personality of the season.
It was a popular decision Williams receiving a standing ovation as he picked up the gong at the black-tie event in the Culloden Estate and Spa, Holywood.
Williams became a popular figure quickly when he arrived at Ravenhill - now Kingspan Stadium - four years ago.
His stand-out performances, commitment and pride in the shirt have made him a true favourite among teammates, coaches, staff and supporters.
During his time at Ulster he racked up 76 appearances, scored 16 tries, and has earned countless ‘man of the match’ awards in both the Guinness PRO12 and European Rugby Champions Cup.
Williams’ departure to Cardiff Blues was confirmed earlier this year, but the fans’ favourite had hoped he could help the side to success in the final run-in to the PRO12 season.
He suffered a knock to a shoulder during Ulster’s 27-17 loss away to Glasgow and although the medical team had been hopeful he could recover, at the end of April it was confirmed the bid to rehabilitate the shoulder had failed.
He suffered a labral tear which required surgery and it ended his season.
Ulster director of rugby, Les Kiss, described Williams as an “infectious type of player”
“Whatever you are doing with him you always come out with a smile on the backend of it.”
At Ulster’s last home game against Leinster the squad did a lap of the pitch, with the biggest roar of the afternoon being saved for Williams, proving his popularity with the supporters.”
The 32-year-old who had played with Auckland Blues before moving to the Northern Hemisphere to further his career had spells with Munster and former Italian franchise Aironi in the Guinness PRO12.
His arrival at Ulster saw former head coach Mark Anscombe get the best out of Williams and that continued during Neil Doak’s interim period before the arrival of Les Kiss.
Williams said: “I probably came here with a bit of a question mark around me and I probably didn’t play my best rugby down south (with Munster).
“I knew I had a bit of a point to prove here and I’d like to think that I took the challenge head on.”
He added: “I’ve loved it here and my family have loved it too.
“You play good rugby when you enjoy where you are living.
“We are certainly going to miss it here, we have some wonderful memories.”