The Australian Rugby Union today announced CSU NSW Country Eagles flyhalf Jono Lance as Buildcorp National Rugby Championship Player of the Season as well as the Australian Barbarians squad that will travel to New Zealand to play the Heartland XV next month.
Twenty-five-year-old Lance played in every game for the Country Eagles in the 2015 NRC as his side narrowly missed out on a Semi-Finals berth. The Canberra-born playmaker, who has joined the Western Force Super Rugby club for 2016, was one of only four players to register points in every game this campaign.
Jordy Reid (Melbourne Rising) came second in the overall count with Ita Vaea (UC Vikings) in third spot.
The 2015 Buildcorp NRC Player of the Year was chosen following a 3-2-1 voting system after every game that included both coaches and representatives from Green and Gold Rugby.
Lance said: "I haven't played too much footy over the past couple of years so the NRC has helped me find my feet again. I had lost a bit of confidence so this has been absolutely perfect for me.
"We're disappointed we let ourselves down with one or two performances that meant we didn't quite make the top four but the last eight weeks have been pretty special with the Country Eagles, playing with guys looking to make that next step into Super Rugby."
The 26-man Australian Barbarians squad was chosen from players that have played in the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship not contracted to Super Rugby clubs in the most recent season. It was also announced that the side will be coached by Darren Coleman (CSU Country Eagles) and Brad Harris (UC Vikings).
The Australian Barbarians selection panel has opted for a 15 forwards; 11 backs split. The CSU Country Eagles dominate the side with seven players chosen while the UC Vikings will provide four players.
With an average age of just 23, the Barbarians squad was chosen by a panel chaired by Adrian Thompson, Pathway Services Manager - Talent Development at the Australian Rugby Union, coaches Darren Coleman and Brad Harris as well as former Wallaby, Super Rugby and National Rugby Championship star Stephen Hoiles.
Thompson said: "This tour is a really good opportunity for players that have already made the step up to the NRC to push their claim for further honours. It is also the perfect opportunity for the selected players to play in a different environment.
"We've selected a young side that I'm sure will meet a Heartland XV team that will be tough and physical. I'm certain they'll be excited at this unique opportunity to play a touring Australian team."
The two-match series against the Heartland XV, selected from uncontracted Super Rugby players playing in the Heartland Championship, will take place at Levin Domain, Manawatu-Wanganui and Cooks Gardens, Wanganui on New Zealand’s North Island.
Australian Barbarians touring party for the two-match tour of New Zealand, November 2015:
Cameron Orr (Greater Sydney Rams) - aged 20
Hayden Hirismaki (Queensland Country) - aged 27
Tyrel Lomax (UC Vikings) - aged 19
Duncan Chubb (Melbourne Rising) - aged 27
Luke Holmes (North Harbour Rays) - aged 31
Ryan Dalziel (CSU Country Eagles) - aged 27
Matt Philip (Sydney Stars) - aged 21
Ben Hyne (Brisbane City) - aged 21
Phil Potgieter (Queensland Country) - aged 20
Waita Setu (Brisbane City) - aged 23
Rowan Perry (UC Vikings) - aged 21
Sam Figg (CSU Country Eagles) - aged 23
Dean Oakman-Hunt (UC Vikings) - aged 22
Pauli Tuala (CSU Country Eagles) - aged 30
Mark Baldwin (CSU Country Eagles) - aged 22
Mitch Short (CSU Country Eagles) - aged 20
Dewet Roos (Greater Sydney Rams) - aged 25
Rod Iona (UC Vikings) - aged 24
Reece Hodge (North Harbour Rays) - aged 21
Andrew Robinson (Sydney Stars) - aged 21
Tom Hill (North Harbour Rays) - aged 25
Charli Clifton (CSU Country Eagles) - aged 24
Maalonga Konelio (Perth Spirit) - aged 26
Paul Asquith (Greater Sydney Rams) - aged 22
Jarome McKenzie (CSU Country Eagles) - aged 24
Harry Jones (Sydney Stars) - aged 19
Darren Coleman (CSU Country Eagles)
Brad Harris (UC Vikings)
Friday 23 October: Buildcorp NRC Semi-Final 1, UC Vikings v Melbourne Rising; Viking Park, Canberra; 7.30pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS 502
Saturday 24 October: Buildcorp NRC Semi-Final 2, Brisbane City v Sydney Stars; Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane; 6:30pm AEST / 7.30pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS 502
Saturday 31 October: Buildcorp NRC Grand Final, 3pm AEDT, Venue TBC, LIVE on FOX SPORTS 502.
Tuesday 10 November: Game One, NZ Heartland XV vs Australian Barbarians; Levin Domain, Manawatu-Wanganui; 5.30pm NZT / 3.30pm AEDT, Broadcast details to be announced
Friday 13 November: Game Two, NZ Heartland XV vs Australian Barbarians; Cooks Gardens, Wanganui; 6.00pm NZT / 4.00pm AEDT, Broadcast details to be announced