Qantas Australian Sevens captains Ed Jenkins and Sharni Williams have been named Men’s and Women’s Player of the Year at the 2015 John Eales Medal in Sydney.
For Jenkins, Australia’s most-capped player of all-time, it is the first time he has picked up the award following in the footsteps of Con Foley in 2013 and last year’s recipient Cameron Clark. The 29-year-old Sydneysider also won the prestigious Shawn Mackay Award in 2012.
During the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series Jenkins scored 26 tries, leading his country to two runners-up placings (Dubai and London) and a third-place (Port Elizabeth) as Australia finished the season in fifth spot.
Ed Jenkins said: “Personally, I have been happy with my own form over the past year and I am humbled to pick up this award. However, I owe a lot to my team-mates. I am enjoying the game as much as ever and our immediate focus at the moment is on the Olympic qualifiers in November. As a squad we are doing everything we can to ensure we are prepared for the tournament in Auckland.
"Geraint [John] has been a big influence off the field - he has tested me physically and mentally which has been beneficial to myself and the team.”
Outgoing Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens Head Coach Geraint John said: “Ed is a player that leads by example. He has consistently delivered strong performance for his country, not only over the past 12 months, but the past five years since debuting for the Australian Sevens team. Furthermore, Ed is a fine ambassador for Rugby Sevens in Australia on and off the pitch and I am delighted for him that he has won this award.”
Batlow-born Sharni Williams has been ever-present since the inception of the Women’s Sevens World Series in 2012. One of the most feared forwards in the women’s game, Williams wins the Qantas Women’s Sevens Player of the Year for the second time having last picked it up in 2013.
The 27-year-old led Australia to automatic Olympic qualification after the Women’s Sevens team finished the 2014/15 World Series in third spot – the highlight of the season being the memorable come-from-behind win against Canada in the Cup Final at Twickenham in May.
Sharni Williams said: “I am stoked to win the Aussie Sevens Women’s Player of the Year award - it’s a huge honour. To train with the girls day in, day out is an absolute pleasure. The exciting part for all of us is that we believe we can better and better. We have plenty of work to do as a squad in the lead up to the new season in December and then Rio next August, but I believe we’re on the right track to achieve our goals.”
Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh said: “Sharni undoubtedly leads the team by her performance on the field. She never stops striving to improve her game and continues to grow into a polished professional athlete. A big game player she is reliable, fierce and inevitably ubiquitous when the game is on the line. She has a plethora of world class attributes and would be one of the first picked with Charlotte Caslick in any World Sevens Dream team. Sharni is only too happy to spread the word of Rugby Sevens in her own time and is a person Australian Rugby can rightly be proud of. A true ambassador and servant to the game, she lives the five pillars of the ARU and is a deserved receipt of this prestigious award.”
The Australian Men’s team travel to Auckland on the weekend of 14/15 November for the Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament, with only the winning nation securing automatic qualification for Rio 2016. The Men’s and Women’s 2015/16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series kicks off in early December in Dubai.