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Higginbotham takes top prize for Rebels season

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As the curtains on the biggest year in Rugby Union in Victoria draw to a close, the Melbourne Rebels celebrated their season with their awards night at the 'International' in Melbourne's coastal suburb of Brighton.

Players, coaches, staff and their partners turned out to celebrate the Rebels best season since their inception in 2011.

The Rebels finished on 36 points and five wins, a steady improvement from 24 points and three wins in 2011, and four wins and 32 points last season.

The evening recognised all aspects of the Club, including its juniors, rookies and its players off field contribution.

The first set of awards were for its juniors, with the Rebel Rising (Rebels feeder side) best local talent, the player with the most potential in the Matt Cockbain award and the Rebel Rising Player of the year.

Power House centre Taofiga Sa took the best local talent, while 2012 Australian Schoolboy Bill Valetini won the Rebel Rising Matt Cockbain award.

One of the Club's unsung heroes in 2013 was Bryce Hegarty, who won the Rebel Rising Player of the Year. In four Super Rugby starts for the Club in his rookie season, he won three matches at flyhalf, while also making a significant contribution for the Rising earlier in the year.

The senior awards were announced later in the night with four in total up for grabs, including the main award. The Rebels Players' Player to be announced at the conclusion of a summary of the 2013 season.

In a tireless effort in his first year at the Club, openside flanker Scott Fuglistaller received the Spirit of Weary Dunlop Award for a player who showed the most passion for the Club on the field.

In a surprise to some, but not his teammates, Tom English finished his first professional season as the Club's Rookie of the Year.

English was one of the Rebels best in 2013, with the towering outside back/winger scoring five tries in his debut season. English re-signed with the Rebels earlier in May until the end of the 2016 season.

The Rod Macqueen Pursuit of Excellence Award went to the Club's equal most capped player of all time, Nick Phipps.

The final award for the evening is recognised as the most prestigious of 2013, with players voting as to who they think is the best player in each match on a 3-2-1 basis.

The points ran early for Scot Higginbotham, who began the season without  any trial practice, recovering from a shoulder injury, receiving only two votes in the opening two matches.

Hugh Pyle and Nick Phipps both collected early points, with Phipps winning the man of match in both the Sharks and Waratahs matches.

Although only one best on ground for the Super Rugby Season, Fuglistaller mounted up the votes and quickly moved to the top of the leader board, Higginbotham's lead look to be unassailable, however the Wallaby backrow forward would be ruled out for the final three matches.

With challenges starting to mount from Ged Robinson and Nick Phipps, both Fuglistaller and Higginbotham appeared to be the only chances of winning, with Fuglistaller taking 29 points away from the British & Irish Lions match.

However, the result was in the bag for the 2013 stand in skipper, with Fuglistaller leaving the match in the early stages for Jordy Reid and not receiving any points in the Rebels final win.

Scott Higginbotham was the eventual winner of the 2013 Melbourne Rebels Players' Player on 225 points, with Mitch Inman winning the best of the backs.

At the end of the evening the players paid tribute to departing personnel, including coaches, Damien Hill and John Muggleton and Club Doctor Tracey Peters.

The Club also formally recognised and congratulated departing Rebels players Gareth Delve, Nic Henderson, Tim Davidson, Ged Robinson, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Richard Kingi, Cooper Vuna, James King and James O'Connor.

2013 Rebels Awards:

Final standing:

225 Scott Higinbotham
211 Gerard  Robinson
169 Mitch Inman
143 Nick Phipps
142 Hugh Pyle
137 Jason Woodward
116 Nic Henderson

Rebel Rising Best Local Player:
Taofiga Sa
Rebel Rising Matt Cockbain Award: Bill Valetini
Rebel Rising Player of the Year: Bryce Hegarty

Spirit of Weary Dunlop: Scott Fuglistaller
Rookie of the Year: Tom English
Rod Macqueen Pursuit of Exellence: Nick Phipps
Players' Player: Scott Higginbotham

Departing Players:
Richard Kingi (France)
Cooper Vuna (Japan)
Gareth Delve (Japan)
Nick Phipps (Waraths)
Ged Robinson (ITM)
Kurtley Beale  (TBC)
James King (TBC)
James O'Connor (TBC)

Retiring Players:
Nic Henderson
Tim Davidson


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