Ahead of tomorrow’s Volvo-RUPA Awards Luncheon in Sydney, the ten finalists have been announced in the 2017 RUPA Medal for Excellence.
The RUPA Medal for Excellence is the most prestigious player-voted honour in Australian Rugby, with the top two players in each Super Rugby team’s annual Players’ Player award automatically earning nomination.
All 2017 contracted Super Rugby players have been invited to vote in a 3-2-1 format for the RUPA Medal for Excellence, which was first awarded in 2001.
There have been nine previous winners of the RUPA Medal for Excellence; Berrick Barnes (2009), Brendan Cannon (2003), Nick Cummins (2013), George Gregan (2001, 2004 & 2006), Christian Leali’ifano (2016), David Pocock (2010 & 2015), Nathan Sharpe (2002, 2005, 2001 & 2012), James Slipper (2014) and George Smith (2007 & 2008).
This year’s finalists are:
Allan Alaalatoa (Brumbies):
Allan played 15 matches for the Brumbies in 2017, averaging 63 minutes per game, and was runner-up in the Brumbies’ Player of the Year Award (Brett Robinson Players’ Player).
Away from Rugby, he is Studying a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice and completed a Cert IV in Youth Work, while he is also a key part of the Brumbies’ Pasifika leadership group.
Adam Coleman (Western Force):
Adam played 11 matches for the Force in 2017, averaging 56 minutes per game, and firmly implanting himself as a leader of the pack as the team from the West finished second in the Australian conference.
Runner-up in the Western Force Players’ Player Award (Nathan Sharpe Medal), Adam embraced financial planning services through the RUPA Player Development Program in 2017 and recently purchased his first properties.
Colby Fainga’a (Melbourne Rebels)
Colby played 12 matches for the Rebels in 2017, averaging 71 minutes per game, and was Runner up in the Rebels’ Player of the Year Award; an Award he won in 2014.
Colby filled in as Captain (for Nic Stirzaker and Sean McMahon) on several occasions in 2017, playing a critical leadership role among an inexperienced team who were ravaged by injuries, while he and wife Loren welcomed their first child, Georgia, in April this year.
Israel Folau (Waratahs):
Israel played 15 matches for Waratahs in 2017, playing every minute and scoring 9 tries to finish as runner up in the Waratahs’ Players of the Year Award (Matthew Burke Cup) and earning his fourth nomination for the RUPA Medal For Excellence (also nominated in 2013, 2015 and 2016).
Away from Rugby, Israel completed his Cert IV Youth Work as well as 25.5 hours of community appearances for the Waratahs, including sponsor & junior Club visits. He married Maria in November of this year.
Scott Higginbotham (Reds):
Returning to Australian Rugby after a stint in Japan, Scott played 12 matches for the Reds in 2017, scoring 4 tries & averaging 78 minutes per game. He finished as runner up in the Reds’ Player of the Year Award (Stan Pilecki Medal).
Away from Rugby, Scott is studying a Bachelor of Business and his Reds’ community service included Hospital Visits, Club visits and the Reds2Rookies Holiday Clinic.
Michael Hooper (Waratahs):
‘Hoops’ played 15 matches for Waratahs in 2017, playing every minute and scoring 4 tries as he won his fifth straight Waratahs’ Players of the Year Award (Matthew Burke Cup).
Captain of the Waratahs & Wallabies, and a RUPA Player Delegate, Michael completed a series of leadership workshops this year, focusing on Emotional Intelligence, as well as over 30 hours of Waratahs community and grassroots appearances.
Amanaki Mafi (Melbourne Rebels):
‘Naki played 15 matches for the Rebels in 2017, averaging 77 minutes per game. He had some breath-taking individual Super Rugby stats, as he led the competition in total Runs (184) and was the competition-leading forward for Metres Gained (1378) and Offloads (30).
The winner of the Rebels’ Players’ Player of the Year Award, Brave Blossom Mafi starred for Japan in Tests against top teams including Australia, Tonga & Ireland in 2017.
Isi Naisarani (Western Force):
In his first season of Super Rugby, Fijian-born backrower Naisarani played 15 matches for the Force in 2017, scoring 2 tries and winning the Western Force Players’ Player Award (Nathan Sharpe Medal).
He also played 8 matches for the Perth Spirit, scoring 3 tries and being named as a finalist in the 2017 NRC Players’ Player of the Year award, and away from Rugby has taken a keen interest in nutrition.
George Smith (Reds):
Evergreen Australian Rugby legend Smith played 15 matches for the Reds in 2017, averaging 73 minutes per game, in his first season in Brisbane. A two-time winner of RUPA Medal For Excellence (2007 & 2008), he won the Reds’ Player of the Year Award (Stan Pilecki Medal) in 2017.
Away from Rugby, George is studying Bachelor of Business and his community service included Queensland Junior Champs and the Reds2Rookies Holiday Clinic.
Henry Speight (Brumbies):
Henry played all 16 matches for the Brumbies in 2017, scoring 7 tries and winning the Brumbies’ Player of the Year Award (Brett Robinson Players’ Player) as his side won the Australian conference.
Away from Rugby, Henry visited his native Fiji & conducted Rugby clinics in September with teammates Tevita Kuridrani and Josh Mann-Rea. In total, he completed 34 hours of Community Service work for the Brumbies in 2017, as well as playing a key role in the Brumbies’ Pasifika leadership group.
The RUPA Medal for Excellence is one of eight major awards presented at the Volvo-RUPA Awards Lunch including the Taylors Wines People’s Choice Australian Player of the Year, Community Service and Academic Achievement awards.