Ten finalists have been announced in the 2017 Newcomer of the Year award, to be presented at the annual Volvo-RUPA Awards Luncheon in Sydney this Wednesday.
The Newcomer of the Year award was first presented in 2006. To be eligible, finalists must have played no more than 6 Super Rugby games or 2 World Rugby Sevens series events in the year prior to when they are nominated. Its previous winners are:
Berrick Barnes (2006), Israel Folau (2013), Reece Hodge (2016), Ben Lucas (2008), Pat McCabe (2010), Sean McMahon (2014), Sefanaia Naivalu (2015), David Pocock (2007), Ben Tapuai (2011), Joe Tomane (2012) and Laurie Weeks (2009).
Four Wallaby debutants, two Australian Rugby Sevens stars and four other players in their first season of Super Rugby make up this year’s ten-player shortlist, with all of Australia’s contracted professionals invited to vote for their winner.
Tim Anstee (Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens):
Tim played all 10 tournaments in his maiden World Rugby Sevens campaign, scoring 12 tries including a hat-trick in Sydney in front of his home crowd.
Away from Rugby, he is Studying Bachelor of Business at University of Western Sydney.
Ned Hanigan (Waratahs/Wallabies):
Ned Played 12 matches for the Waratahs in 2017, scoring 3 tries, and also played 12 Tests for the Wallabies after debuting vs. Fiji in Melbourne.
Away from Rugby, he is studying a Bachelor of Science at the University of NSW
Marika Koroibete (Melbourne Rebels/Wallabies):
Former Melbourne Storm superstar Koroibete successfully switched codes in 2017 afer five seasons in the NRL.
Marika played 13 matches for the Rebels in 2017, scoring 6 tries, and also played 8 Tests for the Wallabies, scoring 4 tries, after debuting vs. Argentina in Canberra.
Isi Naisarani (Western Force):
Following an outstanding NRC campaign with Brisbane City in 2016, Isi Naisarani moved out West and joined the Force in 2017.
The Fijian-born backrower played 15 matches for the Force in 2017, scoring 2 tries, and won the Western Force Players’ Player Award (Nathan Sharpe Medal)
Izaia Perese (Queensland Reds):
Young gun ‘Izzy’ Perese played 12 matches for the Reds in 2017, scoring 3 tries, after being taken as a Development Player on the Wallabies’ 2016 Spring Tour before even making his Super Rugby debut.
He also starred for Australia at the World U20s, played 4 matches for NRC premiers QLD Country and played for Australia against the Barbarians, before again departing on the Spring Tour but this time as a fully-fledged squad member.
Izack Rodda (Queensland Reds/Wallabies):
Giant lock Izack Rodda played 12 matches for the Reds in 2017, scoring 1 try, after impressing in the NRC in 2016.
He also played 4 Tests for the Wallabies after debuting vs. New Zealand in Dunedin, with injury prematurely ending his season, while away from Rugby he is studying a Diploma of Business.
Curtis Rona (Western Force/Wallabies):
Dynamic wing/centre Curtis Rona played 14 matches for the Force in 2017, scoring 1 try, after crossing over from the NRL where he had played for North Queensland and Canterbury previously.
The West Australian made his Wallaby debut against the All Blacks in Sydney, and made 3 Test appearances in 2017.
Emma Sykes (Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens):
Gun young Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens playmaker Emma Sykes played 5 of the 6 tournaments in her maiden World Rugby Sevens campaign.
She also starred for University of Queensland as they won the inaugural AON Uni 7s Premiership, ending up with a new tattoo as a memento of their undefeated campaign!
Lukhan Tui (Queensland Reds/Wallabies):
Giant lock/backrower Lukhan Tui played 9 matches for the Reds in 2017, after 4 the season beforehand, and also played 4 Tests for the Wallabies after debuting vs. South Africa in Bloemfontein.
Away from Rugby, Lukhan is about to embark upon a Diploma of Business.
Jordan Uelese (Melbourne Rebels/Wallabies):
Jordan Uelese became the third-ever homegrown player in the history of the Melbourne Rebel after making his Super Rugby debut in 2017, playing in 3 matches.
He also starred for Australia at the World Rugby U20s Championship for the second straight season, and played 2 Tests for the Wallabies after debuting vs. South Africa in Perth.
The Newcomer of the Year award is one of eight major awards presented at the Volvo-RUPA Awards Lunch including the RUPA Medal for Excellence, the most prestigious player-voted honour in Australian Rugby, as well as the Academic Achievement Award and Community Service awards.