The Queensland Reds have taken out half of the awards on offer at the annual Super Rugby Awards at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney today.
After 18 rounds of hard fought Super Rugby action Queensland Reds and Qantas Wallabies scrumhalf, Will Genia, was named Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year ahead of team mate and 2010 winner, Quade Cooper.
Genia polled 20 votes over the course of the season, including four man-of-the-match performances against the Stormers in Cape Town in round 8, the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium in round 10, the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium in round 15 and against the Chiefs in Hamilton in round 18 to take out the prestigious award.
The two Queensland playmakers were tied for first place going into the last round and it was the scrumhalf’s man-of-the-match effort against the Chiefs that secured him the 2011 title and helped confirm the Reds as the top team on the overall Super Rugby table at the end of the home and away season.
Genia joins the likes of John Eales, George Smith, Stephen Larkham, Stirling Mortlock and the recently retired Phil Waugh to be named Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year since the awards inception in 1998.
The Reds also secured the Australian Team of the Year award for topping the Australian Conference table, while former World Cup winning Wallaby and Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie was named Australian Coach of the Year for a record fourth time for his role in leading the Reds to a top of the table finish.
McKenzie last won the award in 2008 in his final season with the Waratahs was and first awarded Coach of the Year in 2005 while at the NSW Waratahs. He then made it back-to-back awards claiming the title again in 2006.
The only other coach to win the award more than twice in the award’s history is McKenzie’s former Wallaby team mate David Nucifora who was named Australian Super Rugby Coach of the Year three years running from 2002 – 2004 while at the helm of the ACT Brumbies.
The title of Australian Super Rugby Rookie of the Year was awarded to 2011 debutant Nick Phipps, who adds the award to his already impressive CV, which includes a Rugby Sevens Commonwealth Games Silver Medal and Sydney University Colts Premiership trophy.
Phipps, who played a role in every game of the Melbourne Rebels inaugural Season, polled 7 Super Rugby Player of the Year votes including one man-of-the-match performance in round 6 when the Rebels over ran the Hurricanes 42-25 at AAMI Stadium in Melbourne.
Seven players were eligible for the award, which included James Hanson, Liam Gill, Tom Kingston, Ita Vea, Hugh Pyle and Pat Dellit.
The Australian Super Rugby Try of the Year award went to the Western Force for their team effort against the Crusaders in round 11 at nib Stadium in Perth.
After picking up a spilled Crusaders ball in his own half, David Smith began the counter attack before off-loading to James O’Connor on the half way mark. O’Connor then stepped his way past a couple of Crusader’s defenders before passing off to hooker Nathan Charles just outside his attacking 22.
Charles, after alluding one would be tackler, flicked a pass off to Willie Ripia who in-turn spun the ball wide to Cameron Shepherd who calmly ran around to place the ball under the black dot to complete a sensational team effort try.
Stuart Dickinson was awarded his seventh Australian Super Rugby Referee of the Year award, his fifth in as many years.
Australian Rugby Union Managing Director and CEO, John O’Neill AO, congratulated the 2011 Award winners and said the expanded 2011 Super Rugby competition had been successful in its first season.
“The 2011 Super Rugby season has been exciting and transforming and I want to congratulate all of the 2011 Australian Super Rugby award winners for their contribution to the expanded competition this year,” Mr O’Neill said.
“The new conference style format with more local derbies has proved to be a winner in 2011 with TV audiences on Fox Sports significantly up on last year.
“Our viewership numbers overall are also up on last year with an increase of around 28% on average per game tuning over the course of the season to enjoy some entertaining Super Rugby.
“I wish the two remaining Australian sides, the Reds and the Waratahs the best of luck in the up-coming Super Rugby Finals series and I remain confident that we will see at least one of them in the final to hopefully bringing home the Super Rugby Trophy.”
Qantas Wallabies coach, Robbie Deans, said he had been impressed with the competition in 2011.
“The increase in the number of local derbies has resulted in a rise in interest and delivered some entertaining and intriguing battles,” Deans said.
“The fact that 4 out of the 6 finalists are potential 1st time Super Rugby winners reflects the competitiveness of the competition.
“Having two sides still in the hunt for the Super Rugby title is great for Australian Rugby and will hopefully provide some good momentum as we head into the international season.”