RAA 2018 As it happened: Pocock claims John Eales Medal

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

It's Australian rugby's night of nights.

The headline award of the evening is the John Eales Medal but the event also serves to recognise the people who have made a contribution to the sport.

Israel Folau became the first man to win three John Eales Medals when he took the crown last year and he is tipped to be in the mix again despite missing Spring Tour.

Watch all the action LIVE right here from 6:30pm AEDT.


David Pocock has won the John Eales Medal. Photo: RUGBY.com.auWho needs a full year of Test rugby to win a John Eales Medal? Not David Pocock. The backrower has absolutely stormed home to claim his second John Eales Medal, with 262 votes.

He finished 123 votes ahead of his nearest rival in Lukhan Tui from just nine Tests.

Pocock last won the award back in 2010 and it's almost hard to believe it has taken him eight years for his second such has been his impact on the Wallabies through his career.

The 29-year-old would likely have been among the top three on nearly every voting paper in this year's June Series and Rugby Championship Tests, enough to give him one of the most medal wins you could imagine.

Tui has come from nowhere to finish second, after finally cementing himself in the team regularly. He won't play any more rugby this year, though, opting to stay with his family and deal with his step father's sudden death last month. 

Dane Haylett-Petty's move to fullback has clearly paid off with a best finish of third in the count, ahead of Scott Sio and Marika Koroibete.

Pre-count favourites Will Genia and Israel Folau slipped down the order - Genia finished in sixth, while Folau wound up outside the top three for the first time since switching to rugby in 2013.

Sean McMahon still managed to stay in the top 10 despite playing just last year's Spring Tour, with Michael Hooper, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu rounding out the top 10.


Evania Pelite 

Evania Pelite has often been overshadowed by more high-profile teammates but 2017-18 was her season to shine.

Pelite has always been incredibly highly-rated among her peers and coaches and her quality came through as the side battled adversity.

Still one of the younger players in the squad, Pelite stood up this season and put a marker down for the rest of her teammates to follow.


Ben O'Donnell

Ben O'Donnell has been rewarded for a breakout year with the Shawn MacKay Award.

O'Donnell scored 32 tries in the World Series to finish eighth on the overall try-scoring list.

Kiwi-born O'Donnell is a fully-fledged Aussie now but he still wears his heritage on his 'sleeve' with a silver fern tattoo on his leg.

Expect more great things from him in the future.


Emily Chancellor

Chancellor burst onto the Wallaroos scene this year after showing potential playing for Sydney Uni and the Wallaroos.

Her debut Test was one of the more impressive seen in recent times, part of a super backrow effort along with Grace Hamilton and Georgia O'Neill.

Chancellor is an absolute workhorse and could be in the mix for the Aussie Sevens down the track as well.

Keep an eye on her.

9:20pm - Gold Carpet takes centre stage

David and Emma Pocock. Photo: Getty imagesThe red carpet turns gold on Rugby Australia Awards night. Check out all the latest looks here.

9:05pm - Tupou's touching tribute

Taniela Tupou paid tribute to his father after receiving two awards tonight.

Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou paid tribute to his late father, Malakai, after collecting two of the major awards of the night - the Rugby Australia Rookie of the Year and the Super Rugby Player of the Year.

Tupou was emotional speaking about his family and his father, especially, who never had the chance to watch him play.

"He passed away in 2005 and I started playing in 2006 ,so he didn't see much of me playing footy and if I had one wish it'd be for him to watch me play," he said.

"I know he's up there smiling at me.

"He was not a player - from what I know from my mum, he was pretty naughty, a bad boy but I still love him."

9pm - Gardner reflects on fourth referee gong

Angus Gardner won his fourth straight referee of the year award this evening. See what he had to say after yet another incredible year.

8:55pm - Kearns honoured to join Hall of Fame

See what Hall of Fame inductee Phil Kearns had to say after being inducted into the Rugby Australia Hall of Fame.

8:52pm - Pocock jumps ahead

David Pocock takes the lead after the 2018 June Series. Photo: RUGBY.com.auHoly June Series, Poey. The backrow workhorse needed just three Tests to propel himself to the top of the John Eales Medal leaderboard.

Pocock didn't miss a beat in his return to the international fold amid a dramatic series against Ireland.

The Wallabies forwards again dominated the top 10, with Scott Sio moving up the rankings to sit just behind Pocock.

Sean McMahon's tally is still enough to put him in fourth, behind Marika Koroibete and Tatafu Polota-Nau wraps up the top five.

Will Genia has dropped out of the top 10, after an injury during the June Series, but there's still plenty of room for everyone to move in the final six Tests of the count.


David Pocock

David Pocock 

8:45pm - Buildcorp Super W Player of the Year

Shanice Parker

Shanice Parker made her mark on the Super W this year in NSW's run to the competition final.

Parker's Sevens background showed in some electrifying finishes and the youngster proved her potential

She narrowly edged out Force teen Courtney Hodder and NSW teammate Chloe Leaupepe for this gong, in a sign of where women's rugby is really heading.

8:42pm - Super Rugby Player of the Year

Taniela Tupou

Tupou went from YouTube cult hero to serious Super Rugby force in 2018 and the Reds stood to benefit.

The tighthead had major influence starting and off the bench, one of the form props in Super Rugby let alone just Australia.

Still only 22, the 'Tongan Thor' has a huge future ahead of him.

Beat out Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and David Pocock for this gong, which only underlines how good he was.

8:40pm - Try of the Year

Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro had a whole host of tries in 2018 but there was one that stood out from the rest.

His round five effort against the Rebels simply needs to be seen to be believed...so take a look.

8:30pm - Rugby Australia Rookie Of The Year 

Taniela Tupou

Taniela Tupou has played just eight Tests but it's enough to show that he is shaping up as a long-term Wallaby.

Transformed the scrum when he came on against Ireland in June and was also a force against the All Blacks and Springboks especially in the Rugby Championship.

This award was broadened last year from just a Wallabies rookie and Tupou faced plenty of stiff competition to take it out but his impact was too strong to ignore.

8:25pm - U20s Player Of The Year

Fraser McReight

The conveyor belt of Australian backrowers doesn't look like slowing down anytime soon if this year's 20s are anything to go on.

Fraser McReight stepped up in the Oceania and World Rugby U20s competitions, pipping ACT's Tom Ross and Melbourne centre Sione Tupou for the major gong.

Some exciting talent to track in coming seasons.

8pm - McMahon leads first tally

The count after Spring Tour 2017. Photo: SuppliedWe've made it to the first break of the night and the first John Eales Medal count for the evening as well.

Sean McMahon's barnstorming end to 2017 was clearly noticed by his peers with the openside sitting clear on top of the count after the 2017 Spring Tour - a little reminder of why he's been so keenly chased for a World Cup return.

Winger Marika Koroibete is second after a breakout tour, sitting six votes clear of Tatafu Polota-Nau, with prop Scott Sio in fourth and centre Tevita Kuridrani rounding out the top five.

Will Genia is one of the hot favourites for tonight's John Eales Medal but he has some work to do, sitting in eighth at the moment.

Worth remembering that usual suspects Israel Folau and David Pocock are yet to feature in the votes because they both missed last year's Spring Tour.

6:55pm - In Memoriam

A moment's silence now for all the Wallabies and Wallaroos who have passed in the last year.

All of these men and women had a major impact on the game and will be sorely missed.

Fallen Wallabies

Jack Carroll - Wallaby #397. 1925 - 2018

Ken Catchpole - Wallaby #455. 1939 - 2017

Leonard Diett - Wallaby #452. 1939 - 2018

Stan Pilecki - Wallaby #594. 1947 - 2017

Barry Roberts - Wallaby #417. 1933 - 2017

Nicholas Shehadie - Wallaby #352. 1925 - 2018

Bruce Taafe - Wallaby #530. 1944 - 2018

Geoff Vaughan - Wallaby #433. 1933 - 2018

Fallen Wallaroos

Mieke Fortune. Wallaroo #34 (1977 - 2018)

7:53pm - Community Coach of the Year Award

Matthew Chapman

Miami High School's Matthew Chapman is building a successful rugby hub on Queensland's Gold Coast.

Chapman started the school's girls' Sevens program three years ago and they have gone on to win seven titles across various age groups.

He has initiated a program of excellence for the school that has seen Sevens thrive in a space where it did not really exist before.

A fantastic effort from this Queensland teacher and coach who goes above and beyond for rugby.

7:45pm - Joe French Award 

Ron Graham

A technician in the front row from the St George Rugby Club in Sydney, Ron debuted for the Wallabies against Tonga at the SCG in 1973 and went on represent his country in 18 Tests.

After his playing days, Ron gave back to his beloved sport in an honorary capacity as an administrator.

Across 20 years of off-field service to the game, Ron has served in the roles of Chairman, President, and Vice President of Australian rugby and was a former board member, Deputy Chairman, Chairman, President, and was made a life member of the NSW Rugby Union.

Ron was a critical figure in the expansion of the Tri-Nation and Super Rugby and was at the helm when the organisation  overhauled its constitution and moved to an independent board.

7:40pm - Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award

Scott Fardy

Former Wallaby Scott Fardy has long been a selfless contributor to the rugby community and his efforts are being recognised with this award.

Fardy's work in the Japanese town of Kamaishi, hit by a tsunami less than a decade ago went over and above anything expected of foreigners in the city and that work has earned him respect from people all over the world.

Now playing in Ireland, the former Test player is community-minded and has always had a focus on what he can do for those around him.

7:30pm - Referee Of The Year 

Angus Gardner

Angus Gardner has gone from strength to strength in the past year, refereeing some of the biggest matches in rugby.

Gardner was the whistle blower in the Super Rugby final and also won the right to officiate the England-Ireland match in this year's Six Nations.

Most recently, he held the authority in the Pretoria South Africa-All Blacks thriller.

7:20pm  - Volunteer of the Year

Ian Frame (Knox) & Tilly Vlok (Box Hill)

We have joint winners of this year's Volunteer of the Year award, a prize that recognises the people that keep rugby ticking.

Ian Frame from Knox Rugby Club does everything the club needs of him, from picking up players from local train stations to ferry them to training and helping with whatever preparation is needed for the weekend's game.

Frame is the first one to arrive and the last one to leave on game days and makes a special effort to call every player on a Monday to check in and thank them for their efforts. 

After more than 50 years in the game, Frame's recognition is arguably overdue and certainly well-deserved.

Tilly Vlok is flying the rugby flag with Victorian club Box Hill. 

She sleeps at the club on the night before grand final day so that everything goes off without a hitch, just one of the many things she does to keep the club ticking along.

Vlok joined the club in 2000 and has had just about every job available in that time before becoming the first female president.

7:10pm - Hall of Fame inductees

Eddie Bonis

Wallaby #261, Eddie Bonis was a long-serving hooker for Queensland and Australia in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

Bonis played for Queensland for 16 years, and after debuting for Australia in 1929, was capped 21 times for the Wallabies, a record for his time. 

He was first-choice hooker for a decade but it was a 1933 tour of South Africa that cemented his legacy, with South African media labelling him ‘the prince of hookers’.

Bonis stayed involved in rugby as a state coach, national selector and player mentor.

Phil Kearns 

Phil Kearns burst into the Wallabies from Randwick’s reserve grade and went on to become the regular Test hooker and captain the side 10 times.

The rake was part of the 1991 World Cup-winning squad and only injury prevented him from becoming a dual winner in 1999. 

He never shied away on the field or off the field, a key part of the events that helped to turn rugby professional in 1995.

Since retiring, Kearns has been a tireless fundraiser for charity and he remains one of the game’s most recognised faces, as a long-serving commentator for FOX SPORTS.

Tim Gavin

Tim Gavin will be remembered as one of the best no. 8s to play for Australia.

Gavin made his way into the Wallabies in 1988 via Easts and NSW, and the big no.8 quickly established himself.

He helped Australia re-invent back row play and his performance in beating England in 1991 is remembered as one of the best ever games by a Wallaby no.8.

A knee injury in a club game cruelly robbed Gavin of a World Cup win later that year, but he went on to play in the 1995 World Cup, and a year later he fittingly shared his 47th and final Test alongside the retiring David Campese.

Gavin returned to the land after retiring but as a former NSW Rugby president and current Rugby Australia vice-president, he spends hours on the road driving around the state, helping grow the game.

6:25pm - Welcome

The first award isn't far away in Sydney but while we're waiting, here's a look at who's a chance of taking home the prestigious gongs on offer.