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Nick Cummins has claimed the 2013 Rugby Union Players’ Association Medal for Excellence, presented by Australian Reliance, after voted Australian Rugby’s Players’ Player for the 2013 combined domestic and international Rugby seasons.
At the 2013 RUPA Awards Lunch today, hosted to recognise and reward the important roles undertaken by players both on and off the field, it was Cummins who captured the top honour, in due recognition for his blistering Spring Tour form and perseverance after an injury hampered Super Rugby season.
In winning this year’s Medal for Excellence, Cummins faired best from the 140-odd votes that were collected and becomes the fourth consecutive winner of the accolade from the west, with former Western Force teammates David Pocock (2010) and Nathan Sharpe (2011 and 2012) winning in the prior years.
The 26-year old winger only managed six games with the Force in the 2013 Super Rugby season, but certainly made his presence felt despite his restricted number of appearances. He was a part of the Wallabies squad during the British & Irish Lions squad, however it wasn’t until the Rugby Championship and Spring Tour until he came into his own. In winning this year’s Medal for Excellence.
Cummins was named man of the match during the Wallabies first test of the Tour against England, and backed this up with a try scoring double against Italy and a crucial score against Ireland in back to back weeks. His hard abrasive running made him a constant threat to break the line, in turn earning him the plaudits of teammates.
Voting for the RUPA Medal for Excellence is open to all Super Rugby contracted players across the country. The Medal recognises not only the playing successes of a player, but also their contribution to the community along with their effort in furthering their education. As such, it is much more than just a ‘Best & Fairest’ award, and aims to acknowledge outstanding results achieved on and off the field.
From 21 nominees, players were asked to vote 3, 2, and 1 for the player they felt had best met the award criteria of performance, leadership, consistency and discipline.
Off field, the man affectionately known as the “Honey Badger” had a very busy year. The crowd favourite has participated in many Western Force community events, particularly charity work with Ronald McDonald House. First to put his hand up for appearances with kid’s charities, Nick is a bright addition to any community function.
Now in its 13th year, the RUPA Medal for Excellence is the longest running award open to Australia’s professional athletes. In collecting the honour, Cummins becomes the first winger, and only the third back alongside George Gregan and Berrick Barnes to collect the accolade.
In his first year in professional Rugby, the accolades continued to come for Israel Folau after he was named the 2013 RUPA Newcomer of the Year, presented by Allianz Stadium, a week after also being named the International Rugby Players Association Players’ Player International Newcomer of the Year.
In a year in which he finished within the top ten in six Super Rugby attacking categories whilst also equalling the Wallabies all-time record for most tries scored in a season, Folau was the overwhelming choice for the honour in what has been described as the best rookie season in the game.
This wasn’t his only award for the 24 year old on the day, after earlier being named the People’s Choice Player of the Year for 2013. For the first time in the 13 year history of the RUPA Awards, voting was turned over to the public to select who they felt was worthy of being named the player of the year. RUPA received an overwhelming response to voting, and in the end Folau claimed the prize narrowly from national team mates Quade Cooper, Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy, demonstrating how captivating his Rookie season in Rugby has been.
In Sevens, for the first time, Awards were split across both the Men’s and Women’s squads.
In the Men’s team, Con Foley continued a strong year which has seen him lead the side by capturing the Men’s Sevens Excellence Award, presented by BDO.
In the Women’s voting was extremely close between the finalists and in the end, Emilee Cherry was the winner of the Women’s Sevens Excellence Award, presented by NAB Private Wealth, after a standout year of performances as part of the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series season.
In the other honours, Melbourne Rebels back Tom Kingston claimed the Academic Achievement Award, presented by Kaplan Professional Education, while Rebels hooker Pat Leafa captured the Community Service Award, presented by SLE Worldwide.
In 2013, Kingston continued his hard work and commitment to his studies, transferring from a Bachelor of Commerce to a double degree in Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Laws. Since entering professional rugby in 2011, Tom has maintained an ongoing full-time study workload and a distinction average.
In his first year with the Rebels, Pat Leafa supported many charities including Mission Australia, Bridging Worx and Youth Support Advocacy. Throughout 2013 Pat committed an astounding 94 hours in the community across schools, clubs and charity partners, highlighted by an end of season trip to Tonga with teammate Eddie Aholelei to donate rugby gear and run coaching clinics for schools and clubs.
RUPA would like to congratulate all Award winners and finalists for their outstanding contributions to the game of Rugby throughout 2013.