BACK row forward Alisha Butchers has been named Wales Women player of the year by the Welsh Rugby Writers Association.

The 37-times capped Bristol player has had a remarkable 12 months, going from injury to professional status and then a series of barnstorming performances in the Women's Six Nations.

Last year the 25-year-old had to resort to crowd funding after an ankle injury in club training was not covered by insurance. Her story has been a major factor in improving insurance levels for many women rugby players.

"Thanks so much for selecting me for this Welsh Rugby Writers Award, I'm looking forward to the rest of the year ahead," said Butchers.

"I'm super happy with the progress we've made, it just shows what we can do with a bit of belief and hope.

"When I think of the roller-coaster we've been on, to finish third in Six Nations is brilliant compared to the Wooden Spoon we had last year. Having said that, you don't finish third and put your feet up.

"I love this environment, being pushed to my limit is what's making me perform and performing under pressure is what defines your character as an athlete.

South Wales Argus:

"We work for the next thing now which is the Rugby World Cup. July is going to be hard, it's World Cup year, I'm a competitor, I want this more than ever.

"I'm proud of myself, I'm proud of the team and I'm excited to work even harder for the World Cup and to go out to New Zealand and perform well."

Wales Women head coach Ioan Cunnigham added, "I'm delighted for Alisha. She's had an outstanding season, she works so hard and has consistently been one of the best players week in week out.

"She has 100 per cent grabbed the opportunity of becoming professional and I am excited by where she can get to in next six months.

"Her work ethic is outstanding, along with her openness to grow and learn, and she is clearly reaping the rewards of that hard work with recognition such as this award."

Butchers, from Carmarthen, was juggling working for Actif Carmarthenshire with club and international rugby duties when the offer came to accept one of the first full-time professional contracts offered to women rugby players in Wales.

Her employer has kept her job open as a participation officer for the duration of the 12-month contract.

Butchers announced her return to the Women's Six Nations with a player of the match performance in the victory over Ireland and was in contention for that award in every game Wales played.

Wales enjoyed a strong start against Ireland and Scotland, following on from the historic decision by the WRU to have a core group of full-time professionals for the first time, along with part-time contracts for other squad members.

Defeats to England and France followed, with a narrow loss to Italy to finish the Six Nations campaign.