Rugby's top awards will be given out on Thursday night, in the Rugby Australia Awards.
Who will take out the nation's top gongs?
The entire night will be LIVE STREAMED on RUGBY.com.au on Thursday October 26, from 6:30pm AEDT.
JOHN EALES MEDAL
It’s been a mixed 12 months for the Wallabies, which makes this year’s John Eales Medal race more intriguing than others. Injuries and sabbaticals have meant some of the front runners simply haven’t played enough to rack up the votes. Who are our pick as contenders for the award?
Folau has played more rugby than almost anyone else in the past 12 months, playing every minute for the Wallabies and Waratahs this season and missing just the France Test in 2016. He’s also been among the best in the team on each of those occasions. The 28-year-old became the first Wallaby to score four doubles in a calendar year this season, and was on track for the world record of 17, before announcing he will take the rest of 2017 off. If he does win, he would be the first player to win three John Eales Medals, and in just five seasons of playing rugby.
There would be very few years where Michael Hooper wouldn’t be in the mix for the John Eales medal. Hooper had another impressive year, starting in every Test this season, and missing just the France Test in 2016. The Wallabies skipper leads by example on the field, throwing his body on the line and working tirelessly in every matchup. In the race to three John Eales Medals, his and Folau’s contest will go down to the wire.
Kurtley Beale has been a revelation since returning to the Wallabies fold, not missing a beat in his Australian comeback. Beale led the way on a grim night in Sydney and was also supremely influential in Dunedin. The centre looks to have matured and stepped into a leadership role with the Wallabies, something that may also nab him some votes from his peers. With only seven Tests in the past 12 months, though, from a possible 15, his lack of game time will probably hurt him.
Genia is one of the few players to have played almost as many minutes as Folau this season, starting in every Test of 2017. His return to the side on the Spring Tour showed immediately, though he only played three of a possible five of those matches. Was a superstar in June and among the best in all the Bledisloe clashes, and will certainly be up there in the voting.
Make no mistake - Australia is going to miss Sean McMahon in 2018 (and 2019). The flanker has been instrumental for the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship, typically fearless in every outing. McMahon likely falls in a similar boat to Beale, in that he hasn’t quite played enough matches in the last year for a winning tally, but he’s been among the best in pretty much every game he has played, and that should put him at the top end of the count.
David Pocock would surely be in the mix as well, one of Australia’s most potent on Spring Tour, but his year-long sabbatical would likely cost him. Bernard Foley is another regular starter who could be in the mix, but he probably hasn’t had the consistency in the past year.
Our tip: Michael Hooper
Wallabies rookie of the year
It’s been another season of debuts for the Wallabies, with 10 overall to this point. Karmichael Hunt would surely be a front runner for this award, were it not for an ankle injury that cut him out of the Rugby Championship. Ned Hanigan was a revelation, coming in from little Super Rugby to play seven Tests in a row, before being overtaken by Waratahs teammate Jack Dempsey. Izack Rodda and Lukhan Tui could be thrown into the mix as well, but probably haven’t played enough matches.
Our tip: Ned Hanigan
The Shawn MackaySevens Players of the Year
The men’s Sevens player of the year is wide open this year, with a number of new faces throwing their hats in the ring. James Stannard led the way with appearances this season, running out 54 times, a remarkable effort for the side’s elder statesman. Youngsters Liam McNamara, Lachie Anderson and Simon Kennewell are also in the mix for the gong, with Kennewell quickly becoming one of the most reliable in the team.
Our tip: James Stannard
It’s been a rollercoaster year for our women’s sevens, following their success in Rio last year. The next generation has been thrown in the deep end and really produced. Emilee Cherry was one constant in the past season and her form in the Uni7s certainly reminded everyone why she is so highly valued in this team. Playmaker Alicia Quirk is also among the nominees, after a strong international season, with Goal-kicking utility Chloe Dalton, who led the season points tally. Co-captain Sharni Williams was among the most influential, despite an injury-affected year.
Our tip: Emilee Cherry
Women's XVs Player of the Year
The Wallaroos unearthed some exciting talent this season, in a landmark year for women’s XVs. Flanker Grace Hamilton would be among the leaders for this award, a standout in her maiden World Cup. Hamilton had an outstanding domestic season, in a powerhouse Sydney Uni side. Australia’s forwards were immense in their World Cup campaign and if it isn’t Hamilton, you’d think it’ll be someone in the tight five who nabs this one.
Our tip: Grace Hamilton
U20s Player of the Year
It was a heartbreaking year for the Aussie U20s, who narrowly missed out on a finals place in the World Championships. Their backrowers were the major standouts in the tournament, with Queenslanders Reece Hewat and Liam Wright in the mix for this one. Rebels hooker Jordan Uelese, though, has proven his talent on the senior international stage, making his Wallabies debut this season. He'll be tough to beat.
Our tip: Jordan Uelese
Super Rugby Player of the Year
It was a grim season for Australian Super Rugby but there were some shining lights when it came to individual players. The Rebels’ Amanaki Mafi would have to be leading the reckoning for this award, the most consistent of any of the Rebels in a one-win season. Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper mightn’t be far behind, having led the charge in a dismal year for NSW.
Our tip: Amanaki Mafi