Rugby Australia Awards: 2018 Contenders

International
by Staff Writer

Australian rugby's top prizes will be handed out on Friday night at the Rugby Australia Awards.

The John Eales Medal headlines the awards on the night but that is just the tip of the iceberg on the evening.

Watch the whole night LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on RUGBY.com.au from 6:30pm AEDT Friday.

Who will be the contenders for the major gongs?

JOHN EALES MEDAL


This year's John Eales Medal field is more open than it has been in recent years with a host of players missing chunks of the past year of Test rugby, starting from November's Spring Tour and running through to the last Rugby Championship Test.

Many of the usual suspects including Israel Folau, David Pocock and Michael Hooper missed Tests due to breaks or through injury, opening the door for some others to gain votes. 

Pocock has had a major impact since returning to the Wallabies in June after a year-long sabbatical but it will be tough for him to rack up the votes after missing the four 2017 Spring Tour Tests.

Similarly, Folau's absence from the end of year tour will likely reduce his chances of winning a record fourth John Eales Medal.

Dane Haylett-Petty has been one of the more consistent players after injury ended his 2017 early and he has flourished in a move to his usual fullback spot.

In the forwards, Scott Sio has been solid in a patchy front row while Lukhan Tui also impressed developing into a regular blindside flanker and could be a smoky. 

WOMEN'S XVs PLAYER OF THE YEAR


This was a landmark year for women's XVs and a handful of Wallaroos really stepped up in two historic double headers against New Zealand in August.

Australia's backrow was industrious in both the Tests and loose forwards Emily Chancellor and Grace Hamilton would surely feature among the votes.

Skipper Liz Patu proved a strong physical presence up front as well, while the slick skills of fullback Mahalia Murphy and enigmatic halfback Cobie-Jane Morgan would put them in contention for the gong.

SHAWN MACKAY WOMEN'S SEVENS PLAYER OF THE YEAR


The Aussie women overcame plenty of adversity to take the 2017-18 World Series, off the back of a host of new faces.

With many of their Olympians forced out at various stages with injury, it was some of the next generation of players that took their chances.

Vani Pelite stepped up in the absence of some of her Olympic teammates and showed exactly why she is so highly-rated among the squad.

Star trio Emilee Cherry, Emma Tonegato and Charlotte Caslick have all missed tournaments through the season but you'd expect them to feature among the top contenders as well.

SHAWN MACKAY MEN'S SEVENS PLAYER OF THE YEAR


It was a year of some overhaul for the men's Sevens and for a lot of the season it was up to their newest additions to steer the ship.

John Porch was elevated into the captaincy after injuries to Lewis Holland, Jesse Parahi and James Stannard and he took the responsibility in his stride.

First-year player Ben O'Donnell was a revelation for the side after his debut, regularly on tournament dream teams through the series, while Maurice Longbottom added some unpredictable spark for the men as well.

JUNIOR WALLABIES PLAYER OF THE YEAR


The Junior Wallabies unearthed some promising talent in their run to a fifth-place finish at the World Rugby U20s this year.

It was their back row that proved the most consistent throughout the tournament and in the preceding Oceania U20s as well.

Reds duo Hamish Stewart and Jordan Petaia were both part of the squad late in the tournament but their Super Rugby commitments might count against them when it comes to deciding the winner of this award.

Flanker Fraser McReight was impressive for the side as was inside back Semisi Tupou, who is tipped for big things with the Melbourne Rebels. 

RUGBY AUSTRALIA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR


This is the second year that the rookie of the year award has been decided across all formats of the game and there's some tight competition.

Taniela Tupou would have to be in the mix when it comes to the Wallabies after a rampaging eight Tests since his debut in Scotland last year.

In the Sevens realm, Ben O'Donnell and Maurice Longbottom have been stand outs for the men's side since playing their first World Series tournaments.

For the women, Yasmin Meakes and Page McGregor have worked their way into regular World Series spots and could be smokies.

A host of Wallaroos may have put their name in the mix with promising debuts, including Sevens and XVs rising star Emily Chancellor.

SUPER RUGBY PLAYER OF THE YEAR


It was a mixed bag for Australia's Super Rugby outfits this year but an overall improvement in results.

Kurtley Beale made an instant impact for the Waratahs after returning to Super Rugby in 2018 and Will Miller stepped up in the absence of injured skipper Michael Hooper, while Israel Folau and Taqele Naiyaravoro also stood out.

Taniela Tupou was a powerhouse for the Reds along with front row teammate Brandon Paenga-Amosa and utility Lukhan Tui.

Jack Maddocks had a breakthrough season for the Rebels and halfback Will Genia was among the best when fit, though he battled a host of injuries.

Rory Arnold was abrasive for the Brumbies and David Pocock barely missed a beat in his Super Rugby comeback.

SUPER W PLAYER OF THE YEAR


The inaugural Super W season produced an epic conclusion with an extra-time final played out at Allianz Stadium.

NSW and Queensland were the standout teams throughout the whole competition but there were some impressive individuals from other states.

WA's Courtney Hodder caught the eye with a six-try outing early in the season while Queensland fullback Samantha Treherne used the competition as a launch pad for a breakthrough representative year, both in Sevens and XVs.

NSW's Shanice Parker showed off her Sevens background with some electric attack in her state's run to an historic Super W championship.