It is the second time each player has received their continent’s top individual honour, Nelsen having collected the men’s honour in 2006 and Riley successfully defending the title she first picked up for her efforts in 2009.
“The players of the Pacific achieved a wealth of milestones during 2010 and it’s important that we recognise these efforts,” said OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas. “We have had a very high calibre of candidates, not only from New Zealand, but from right across the Oceania region. Ryan and Ali have stood out amongst their peers and are fully deserving of these awards.”
The Blackburn Rovers centre-half earned the trophy by virtue of his inspirational performances as captain at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, where the All Whites emerged unbeaten, and in the English Premier League, enabling him to see off rivals such as team-mate Shane Smeltz, Hekari United stars Kema Jack and David Muta and New Caledonia captain Pierre Wajoka.
Riley, for her part, faced competition from fellow Football Ferns such as Amber Hearn and Hayley Moorwood as well as other Pacific Island stars such as Cook Islands captain Mama Henry and Papua New Guinea’s Deslyne Siniu, but the 23-year-old retained her crown after a year in which she was named Women’s Professional League (WPS) Rookie of the Year in the United States.
These OFC awards are presented on the basis of individual performances at FIFA and OFC events as well as on personal characteristics such as leadership, fairplay and impact on team-mates at club and national level.