Qantas Wallabies and NSW Waratahs fullback Israel Folau has claimed the 2015 John Eales Medal, winning the award for a second consecutive year.
In just his third year in the code, Folau’s meteoric rise in Rugby has continued as he becomes just the third player in the 14-year history of the John Eales Medal to collect the major award for a second time, joining George Smith (2002, 2008) and Nathan Sharpe (2007, 2012).
At a packed gala dinner at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, the ARU celebrated and acknowledged the men and women in the Australian Rugby community – players, coaches, fans, match officials and administrators - for their dedication, commitment and outstanding performance.
Folau picked up 138 votes in total to edge out resurgent flanker David Pocock (113), Qantas Wallabies Vice-Captains Michael Hooper (108) and Adam Ashley-Cooper (98), and Ben McCalman (95) to become the first ever back-to-back winner.
Building again on his first two seasons in Rugby, Folau produced another standout Rugby Championship campaign before being judged the Wallabies’ best in a losing effort against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup decider.
The three-code star has played in every Qantas Wallabies Test since making his debut in the gold jersey against the British & Irish Lions in 2013. He has now played 33 Tests for the Wallabies and has crossed for 18 tries.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver congratulated Folau on becoming the first player to claim the John Eales Medal in consecutive years.
“Israel is a special talent and a wonderful ambassador for our game and he has once again proven to be the most outstanding player for the Wallabies over the past year.
“It is a huge credit to Israel that he has been committed to learning the game and has developed into a truly world-class fullback.
“We are delighted that he will remain in our game for the long-term after signing a three-year contract extension with Australian Rugby and the Waratahs this year and we are excited to see what he can produce for the Wallabies at his first Rugby World Cup in the UK next month.”
The John Eales Medallist is voted for by Qantas Wallabies players on a 3-2-1 basis after each Test match. Folau accumulated the most points in the designated period from the 2014 Spring Tour to the second Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand earlier this month.
The 26-year-old also took out the Super Rugby Try of the Year award for being the player deemed most responsible for Tolu Latu’s match-winning Round 6 try against the Brumbies.
The Qantas Wallabies depart on Saturday (August 29) to play an historic Test against the USA Eagles in Chicago on September 5, before jetting across to the UK for a short training camp in Bath, prior to their opening 2015 Rugby World Cup pool match against Fiji at Millennium Stadium on September 23.
Other awards presented at the John Eales Medal ceremony included the latest inductees to the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
Pre-World War II Wallabies hooker John ‘Jock’ Blackwood, post-war scrumhalf Cyril Burke and star centre of the modern era, Tim Horan, were the three players chosen to join an elite group of just 32 others in the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
Each inductee was chosen for demonstrating outstanding ability, sportsmanship, commitment, character and personal contribution to their team and the game in their era.
After claiming three awards at last year’s John Eales Medal ceremony, Wallabies and Melbourne Rebels back-rower Sean McMahon continued his sharp trajectory in the game by being named Qantas Wallabies Rookie of the Year.
Michael Hooper was also on the winners list, voted for the third consecutive year as ‘Australia’s Choice’ for Qantas Wallaby of the Year. Hooper once again polled highest in the fan vote on Rugby.com.au, which in 2015 attracted double the number of votes from 2014.
Qantas Wallabies and Brumbies flanker David Pocock capped off a triumphant return from back-to-back season-ending knee injuries by winning the Asteron Life Super Rugby Player of the Year.
Pocock’s Brumbies team mate, 25-year-old lock Rory Arnold was named Asteron Life Super Rugby Rookie of the Year.
Qantas Wallabies Head Coach Michael Cheika collected the Asteron Life Super Rugby Coach of the Year award after leading the NSW Waratahs to a second consecutive Australian conference title. The Waratahs, meanwhile, where once again the Asteron Life Super Rugby Team of the Year.
Ed Jenkins won The Shawn Mackay Award for Qantas Men’s Sevens Player of the Year, while Sharni Williams took the gong for Qantas Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in the first year that The Shaun Mackay Award was awarded across both teams.
As skipper of the women’s team Williams was a standout as the Aussies finished third in the 2014/2015 Sevens World Series, which earned the side automatic qualification for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 where Rugby Sevens will debut as an Olympic sport.
In other awards, Sydneysider Anthony Moyes won the Roger Vanderfield Award for Referee of the Year, while Sydney’s Ariana Kaiwai won the Women’s Player of the Year award for her outstanding performance in the 2015 Women’s XVs National Championships.
Queensland flanker Michael Gunn got the nod as the Australian Under 20s Player of the Year after a series of powerful displays at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy.
Randwick Club legend Jeffrey Sayle OAM was presented with the Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby award and former ARU administrator, Women’s President and current Women’s Rugby Patron Joan Forno received the Joe French Award for service to Australian Rugby.
The HSBC Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Gosford’s Andrew Ellem, while John Woodhouse of Kiwi Hawthorn Rugby Club was recognised as Lifetime Volunteer of the Year and Lindfield’s Andrew Morbey claimed HSBC’s Young Volunteer award.
Angus Gardner collected the TNT Super Rugby Referee of the Series and Ted Vinson of Charters Towers Rugby Club took home the Asteron Life Community Coach of the Year.
2015 John Eales Medal Awards
John Eales Medal: Israel Folau
Qantas Wallabies Rookie of the Year: Sean McMahon
Qantas Wallaby Try of the Year: Nick Phipps (Qantas Wallabies v Ireland, Dublin)
Australia’s Choice – Qantas Wallaby of the Year: Michael Hooper
Wallabies Hall of Fame: John ‘Jock’ Blackwood, Cyril Burke and Tim Horan
Asteron Life Super Rugby Player of the Year: David Pocock (Brumbies)
Asteron Life Super Rugby Team of the Year: NSW Waratahs
Asteron Life Super Rugby Coach of the Year: Michael Cheika (NSW Waratahs)
Asteron Life Super Rugby Rookie of the Year: Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
Asteron Life Super Rugby Try of the Year: Israel Folau (most responsible) - Tolu Latu try, NSW Waratahs v Brumbies, Round 6
Super Rugby TNT Referee of the Series: Angus Gardner
Australian U20s Player of the Year: Michael Gunn
The Shawn Mackay Award Qantas Men’s Sevens Player of the Year: Ed Jenkins
The Shawn Mackay Award Qantas Women’s Sevens Player of the Year: Sharni Williams
Women’s Player of the Year: Ariana Kaiwai (Sydney)
Joe French Award: Joan Forno
Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award: Jeffrey Sayle OAM
Roger Vanderfield Award - Referee of the Year: Anthony Moyes
HSBC Volunteer of the Year: Andrew Ellem (Gosford)
HSBC Lifetime Volunteer of the Year: John Woodhouse (Kiwi Hawthorn)
HSBC Young Volunteer of the Year (U25): Andrew Morbey (Lindfield)
Asteron Life Community Coach of the Year: Ted Vinson (Charters Towers)