announced the team nominees for the Player Awards that will be handed out during Grey Cup week in Toronto. Hamilton has five players nominated in the six categories and there are really few surprises among those selected.
Chris Williams is the nominee for top player and top special teams player. Williams as the top special teams player is a no-brainer. He is almost guaranteed to take home the division nomination and league award. Williams was a unanimous selection.
But he wasn't for MOP and that is probably because some voted for Henry Burris. Burris is deserving of some recognition for his stellar statistical season, but Williams has been the superior player all season. Williams has been the definition of outstanding this season and is deserving of being the team's MOP nominee. He has an outside shot to take the division nomination and league award, but is up against some stiff competition in that category.
Rey Williams was named the team nominee for top defensive player. This one is sure to invite plenty of debate and derision. Williams has excellent numbers, but has been singled out as being a weak link in the defense, especially being the man that mans the middle of the field. There has been constant criticism that his numbers are inflated and that he is usually out of position and therefore in chase mode. Some of those criticisms are warranted, but on a defense that has been the object of ridicule since Day 1, who else could have been selected? Dee Webb may have been one possibility, but with no real outstanding player on the defensive side of the ball, the selection of Williams was pretty much a fait accompli by about mid-season.
Luca Congi was selected as Hamilton's Most Oustanding Canadian nominee. Congi would have been a double nominee if not for Williams' outstanding season, but he will have to settle for being the team's top Canadian. Congi had the unenviable task of replacing fan favourite Justin Medlock and he has exceeded expectations. He has missed just five field goals all season and may just be Hamilton's most consistent and reliable player this year. I don't think Congi will get the division nomination, but being named the team's best non-import is no small feat.
Tim O'Neill earned the nomination as Hamilton's top offensive lineman. O'Neill has played all over the Tiger-Cat line, starting the season at guard and then moving to centre when Marwan Hage was lost for the second straight year to injury. O'Neill was signed because of his versatility and that has come in handy this season. O'Neill is a long shot to take the division nomination, so I think he, like Congi, will have to be happy with being the top o-lineman on his team.
Josh Bartel secured the team's nomination for Most Outstanding Rookie. Bartel never played football prior to this season and he has done an excellent job punting the football. He hasn't been out of this world, but for a first timer, he has done an excellent job. There is almost no chance that Bartel will go any further in the nomination process. But a good first season will hopefully lead to a better second season for the Punter from Down Under.
So from my vantage point, it looks like the Ti-Cats have a chance to have one representative at the Player Awards in Toronto on November 22nd. Chris Williams will be there for sure, but he could be there for two awards; the other four players are facing long odds to nab division nominations. We'll find out who will be going to Toronto for the award ceremony when the finalists are announced next Wednesday.