Australia's rugby fans have had their say and selected players from all five Australian Super Rugby teams in the Volvo People's Choice Team of the Year.
Western Force players Billy Meakes, Ross Haylett-Petty and Michael Ruru, as well as Melbourne Rebels flier Marika Koroibete, were selected in the team, despite not being international representatives, a tribute to the Super Rugby seasons had by each player. Meakes and Koroibete are in line to make their potential Wallaby debuts during The Rugby Championship, and their selection in the People's Choice Team of the Year suggests that Australia’s Rugby fans are excited to see them unleashed at the next level.
For the first time in the competition’s history a Japanese international has been selected, with freshly resigned Melbourne Rebels star Amanaki Mafi the overwhelming choice in the Number Eight jersey and teaming up in the back row with new national captain Michael Hooper and the younger of the two Haylett-Petty's, Ross.
Reflecting their even battle for the top of the Australian conference, six Western Force players and four Brumbies players were selected, with two Rebels and Waratahs players chosen and one from the Queensland Reds. It's a fitting acknowledgement for how all Force players have put off field issues aside and focused on their rugby in 2017.
In the front row, Allan Alaalatoa’s outstanding campaign sees the young gun join experienced Force duo Pek Cowan and Tatafu Polota-Nau, whilst Rory Arnold and Adam Coleman retain their lock positions in the People’s Choice Team of the Year for the second year running.
Bernard Foley also backs up from the 2016 team to partner with Ruru in the halves, with Force fullback Dane Haylett-Petty the only other member of the 2016 to again earn selection. Meakes, after only his first year of Super Rugby, is joined in the midfield by Reds star Samu Kerevi, with Fijian-born excitement machines Koroibete and Henry Speight on the wings.
“Congratulations to all players who’ve been recognised by the fans and selected in the Volvo People’s Choice Team of the Year for 2017,” said RUPA Chief Executive Officer Ross Xenos.
“This team is voted on exclusively by the fans, and it is their continued support that gives Australian Rugby its strength. It is their contributions, from volunteering at their clubs, to buying tickets to matches or FoxSports subscriptions that makes it possible for professional Rugby to thrive all across the country."
“The selection of ten players from the Western Force and Brumbies reflects their battle for dominance in the Australian conference, and the unique stories behind the selection of every one of the fifteen players shows that they have in their own way each won fans' appreciation."
“I’d like to once again pay tribute to Volvo for their ongoing support of RUPA since 2014. Their desire to recognise the outstanding achievements of Australia’s players is one of the key reasons why RUPA and Volvo retain such a strong partnership.”
The complete 2017 Volvo People’s Choice Team of the Year is:
1. Pek Cowan (Western Force)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Western Force)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (ACT Brumbies)
4. Rory Arnold (ACT Brumbies)
5. Adam Coleman (Western Force)
6. Ross Haylett-Petty (Western Force)
7. Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
8. Amanaki Mafi (Melbourne Rebels)
9. Michael Ruru (Western Force)
10. Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs)
11. Marika Koroibete (Melbourne Rebels)
12. Billy Meakes (Western Force)
13. Samu Kerevi (QLD Reds)
14. Henry Speight (ACT Brumbies)
15. Dane Haylett-Petty (Western Force)
Five players (one from each Australian Super Rugby team) per position were selected by RUPA based on the number of minutes they played and the affect they've had on their team's results in the 2017 Super Rugby season, with players only eligible to be picked in one position.
Only one entry per person was counted towards the final tally, as remarkably no entrants picked the exact 15-man side that Australia selected. Three entrants have each won tickets for themselves and five friends to attend one of Australia’s home Test matches in 2017 in either Brisbane, Sydney or Perth.