The finalists have been announced for the 2016 RUPA Medal for Excellence, the only player-voted individual Award in Australian Rugby voted on by all Super Rugby contracted players, with the winner to be announced at the Volvo-RUPA Awards Lunch on Wednesday December 7th.
The RUPA Medal for Excellence is the pinnacle of player Awards in Australian Rugby with the ten finalists comprising of the winner and runner-up in each Super Rugby team’s Players’ Player Awards.
Australian Super Rugby players have over the last month voted for the RUPA Medal using a 3-2-1 points system for the individual, outside their own team, who they believe has shown the best performance, leadership, consistency and discipline, both on and off the field, across the international and domestic Rugby season.
The Award was first presented in 2001, when it was won by George Gregan who also went on to win the Award in 2004 and 2006. Other multiple winners include David Pocock (2010, 2015), Nathan Sharpe (2002, 2011, 2012) and George Smith (2007, 2008).
2016 RUPA Medal For Excellence Finalists:
Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs):
Waratahs star Folau split his time between fullback and outside centre this year, scoring a highly impressive 11 tries in 15 matches and playing almost every minute as his side fell narrowly short of the Super Rugby finals. Away from Rugby, Israel continued to represent both the Wallabies and Waratahs within the community, while he also commenced his Certificate IV in Youth Work. Folau reached a half century of appearances for both the Waratahs and Wallabies in 2016.
Liam Gill (Queensland Reds):
Backrower Gill topped the Reds’ Players’ Player tally with 282 votes, more than 50 ahead of runner up Hendrik Tui, despite missing the opening 4 rounds of the Super Rugby season with injury. It’s a measure of the huge impact that the 24-year-old had on his side’s performances as he went back to back in the Award, scoring 4 tries from 11 appearances. Away from Rugby, Liam was involved in a number of promotions during 2016 including the ‘Rookies to Reds’ program and a number of school visits throughout the year.
Dane Haylett-Petty (Western Force):
Fullback Haylett-Petty won his first Nathan Sharpe Medal in an outstanding 2016 in the west, scoring nearly 3 times as many votes as his nearest rival in a record tally! In a year in which he also made his Wallaby debut and firmly secured a regular place in the Australian Test side, Haylett-Petty made the 2nd highest amount of metres and carries in Super Rugby while only 5 players beat more defenders than he did. Dane is also studying the last unit of his Bachelor in Commerce degree at Curtin University, while he recently started a healthy drive-through business with his sister, Sarah.
Matt Hodgson (Western Force):
Three-time Nathan Sharpe Medallist Hodgson finished runner up in the 2016 Western Force Players’ Player Award, despite his season being cut short by injury after just 11 Super Rugby matches. In his final season as Captain of the side before stepping down, Hodgson scored 2 tries while he was also busy off the field, being named as a finalist for the 2016 RUPA Community Service Award for his Ambassadorial role with mental health charity LIVIN WA. Hodgson, who also owns two F45 gym franchises, is also studying his Cert III and Cert IV in Fitness in 2016 while working as a trainer.
Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs):
Michael Hooper won his 4th consecutive Matt Burke Cup as the Waratahs’ Players’ Player Award winner, all the while captaining the side for the first time in 2016. Hooper made the 8th highest number of tackles in Super Rugby, had the most linebreaks of any Waratahs forward and scored 4 tries for his side as he played every game. Michael completed a total of 14 hours in appearances this year for the Waratahs and countless more within the Wallabies environment.
Christian Leali’ifano (ACT Brumbies):
The 6th highest point scorer in the 2016 Super Rugby season with 163 (3 tries, 41 conversions & 22 penalty goals), Christian Leali’ifano missed just five minutes of the Brumbies’ entire Super Rugby campaign as they topped the Australian conference. His fourth season of over 100 points at Super Rugby level, Christian also completed a Certificate IV in New Small Business and was instrumental in the leadership of the Brumbies’ Pasifika players’ development program. He is a ‘champion’ for the Canberra Domestic Violence Crisis Service, and this year he won an ACT Government Violence Prevention Award.
Sean McMahon (Melbourne Rebels):
The trophy cabinet at Sean McMahon’s house may require an extension soon, with the 22-year-old going back to back in the Rebels’ Players’ Player Award as well as also being crowned the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year. McMahon, who Captained the side in multiple games with Nic Stirzaker out injured, was ranked 2nd among all forwards for defenders beaten, while he is an Ambassador for the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation, which is a charity that supports research, care and development into brain cancer.
David Pocock (ACT Brumbies):
Backrow superstar David Pocock was the runner up in the Brumbies’ Players’ Player Award, after winning the Award in 2015. Injury at times interrupted the breakdown king, but he still played 11 matches for the Brumbies and scored 2 tries as they topped the Australian conference. David continued with his Bachelor of Ecological Agricultural Systems, while he was the ACT’s Australia Day Ambassador and continued to be a passionate advocate in the areas of social equity and conservation.
Jordy Reid (Melbourne Rebels):
Dreadlocked Melbourne Rebels star Jordy Reid finished as runner up in the club’s Players’ Player Award, after playing every game for the side in 2016 and scoring 2 tries in the process. Reid, who has been at the Club since 2013, was also named recipient of the Rebels’ Spirit of Weary Dunlop Award, chosen by Rebels coaching staff, for the player who best exemplifies the club’s values of defending the line against all odds, never giving in, being a great team person and battling the hard moments on the field. Away from Rugby, the 25-year-old is in the final year of his Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) at Swinburne.
Hendrik Tui (Queensland Reds):
Japanese International Hendrik Tui, who was the runner up in the Reds’ Stan Pilecki Medal count, carried the ball into contact more than any other forward in the 2016 Super Rugby competition, as well as ranking in the top 10 players for defenders beaten. The 28-year-old, whose previous season at the Reds had been heavily interrupted by injury, started all 15 games for the Reds. Away from Rugby, Hendrik attended a number of promotions including Junior Club and Rookie drives, as well as playing an important role in helping Japanese international teammate Ayumu Goromaru settle in Australia.
The RUPA Medal For Excellence is one of eight major Awards presented at the Volvo-RUPA Awards Lunch; click here to see a summary of all Awards and finalists, and follow #RUPAAwards via social media from midday onwards on Wednesday December 7th.