David Pocock has capped his stellar return to international Rugby by claiming the John Eales Medal at the 2018 RugbyAustralia Awards at Randwick Racecourse on Friday night.
Pocock wins the award for the second time in his decade-long career, having previously collected the medal in 2010.
Amassing 262 votes (123 clear of his nearest teammate, Lukhan Tui) from his Wallabies teammates since the start of the June Ireland Series, Pocock took the award despite not playing in every match during the award voting period.
The workhorse backrower also reinforced his standing in the eyes of Wallabies supporters by taking out the fan’s choice award for the Wallabies Player of the Year.
Standout Queensland loose forward Fraser McReight was named the top Under 20s player, and looks like a big prospect to keep an eye on in the future.
Also taking top honours on the night were Australian Sevens stars Evania Pelite and Ben O’Donnell, who scooped the Sevens Player of the Year awards named in memory of the late Shawn MacKay.
Pelite and O’Donnell were standouts on the HSBC Sevens World Series in 2017-2018 with Pelite amassing 13 tries for the World Series-champion Aussie women, and O’Donnell bursting onto the scene to finish 8th on the tryscorers list in the men’s series with 32 tries in his rookie campaign.
Fellow rookie Emily Chancellor took out the Player of the Year award for the Wallaroos after two outstanding performances against New Zealand’s Black Ferns in August. Chancellor emerged as one of Australia’s finds of the season, with the versatile backrower also co-captaining Macquarie University in the Aon University Sevens Series in 2017 and 2018.
Three former greats were inducted into the Wallabies Hall of Fame, including pre-War hooker Eddie Bonis (Wallaby 261, 21 caps), former number eight, Tim Gavin (Wallaby 670, 47 caps) and former Wallabies captain and dual Rugby World Cup-winning hooker, Phil Kearns (Wallaby 681, 67 caps).
Young tyro Taniela Tupou celebrated a breakout maiden season of international Rugby, winning the RugbyAustralia Rookie of the Year and Super Rugby Player of the Year award after his influential season for the Queensland Reds. Meanwhile, Shanice Parker was voted the inaugural Super W Player of the Year after steering NSW Women to an historic title.
For being a shining light on the values of Rugby and for services to the game, long-time administrator Ron Graham won the Joe French Award and Scott Fardy was recognised for his selfless role in the disaster relief efforts following the 2011 Tsunami in Japan by receiving the Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award.
In a first, it was an even split in the Volunteer of the Year award voting between Knox Rugby Club’s Ian Frame and Box Hill’s Tilly Vlok, while Matthew Chapman of Miami State High in Queensland was judged the outstanding Community Coach in 2018.
RugbyAustralia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle congratulated the winners: “On behalf of the Australian Rugby community, I wholeheartedly congratulate our award winners for 2018.”
“There were many outstanding achievements by some very special individuals across every level of the game and it was a great night to recognise the significant contributions of people within the game, both past and present.
“As a sport we have had much to celebrate in 2018, with participation growth across all formats of the game, a second World Series title in three years for our Women’s Sevens team, a blockbuster Ireland Series in June, and some monumental moments for women’s Rugby with the inaugural Buildcorp Super W season and the first ever double-header in Australia involving the Qantas Wallabies and Buildcorp Wallaroos.”
RugbyAustralia Awards 2018 Award Winners
HSBC Volunteer of the Year: Ian Frame (Knox Rugby Club)
HSBC Volunteer of the Year: Tilly Vlok (Box Hill Rugby Club)
Roger Vanderfield TNT Referee of the Year: Angus Gardner
Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award: Scott Fardy
Joe French Award: Ron Graham
Geoff ‘Bunter’ Shaw Community Coach of the Year Award: Matthew Chapman (Miami State High)
Under 20s Player of the Year: Fraser McReight (Queensland)
RugbyAustralia Rookie of the Year: Taniela Tupou (Qantas Wallabies)