Barnstorming Queensland Country No.8 Harry Wilson has been voted as the 2019 National Rugby Championship Rising Star award.
Launched in 2018, and won in a landslide by Fijian Drua star Alivereti Veitokani, the award recognises emerging players with fewer than three games of Super Rugby or fewer than three Tests for the Flying Fijians.
Wilson, one of six of the hugely successful 2019 Junior Wallabies to receive a Rising Star nomination during this NRC campaign, was a standout for Queensland Country this season, and now he’s been recognised as the best young player competition wide.
A eleven-person panel comprising RUGBY.com.au commentators and writers, along with representatives from RUPA, and Australian rugby fan site Green & Gold Rugby lodged their votes on a 3-2-1 basis and final tallies saw Wilson emerge on top with 21 votes, three clear of Brisbane City backrower Fraser McReight, with Sydney flyhalf Will Harrison in third on 10 votes.
In all, six of the seven nominees received votes from the eleven panel members, with the three placegetters all receiving 3 votes from at least one judge.
Here’s what the judges said of the top three:
21 votes – Harry Wilson (Queensland Country)
Mitch Hardy: “Physical number 8 who has given Queensland Country go forward in the competition; a strong ball-carrier and defender. A valued up-and-coming member of the Queensland Reds and Australian Under-20s.”
Richard Svenson: “Huge workload with strong carries and can also find the tryline.”
Emma Greenwood: “One of the outstanding players of the NRC this season, not just the newcomers or young players but the competition overall. In the past 12 months, he's made the leap from promising young player to a backrower capable of turning a match on his own and able to match it with any competitor in the game at this level. Will surely add a Super Rugby cap to his resume next season despite the Reds having arguably the most competitive group of loose forwards in Australian rugby.”
Jaybor Staunton: “Gets through an absolute mountain of work and never shirks responsibility when the going gets tough, evident by his having the most carries and offloads of any player in NRC 2019. Add his size and skill to the mixer and he's one of the best talents doing the rounds in Aussie rugby.”
Martin Lippiatt: “Huge this season in so many ways. Averaging 20 four-metre runs a game, usually in close quarters, and he cracked opposition lines beating defenders 20 per cent of the time. He worked tirelessly in the attacking set piece but also averaged 10 tackles a game. His ability to read the game is superb and his silky touches with ball in hand hoodwinks opposition. He played nearly every minute for Queensland Country this year and in light of everything he achieved it’s scary to think he is just 20 years old. Watch this space.”
18 votes – Fraser McReight (Brisbane City)
Dallan Murphy: “As a 20-year-old, coming into the NRC is a step up, let alone captaining your NRC side. His game has been fully rounded, whether it be with ball in hand, in defence or turning the ball over, his influence on his team has been second to none. He has shown so many qualities that make him a genuine rising star.”
Tim Gavel: “He has been outstanding as a leader and has been omnipresent at the breakdown in every game he has played. Puts his body on the line every week.”
Nick Wasiliev: “I saw a future Wallabies captain this year. I had a lot of questions around him being captain when he was selected even despite hearing the good things about him but has proved me wrong, and then some. Great leadership skills, even better to come from such a young prospect. Add in that he's second in the entire competition in offloads, and second in turnovers won. This guy played an amazing season.”
10 votes – Will Harrison (Sydney)
Dan Parks: “Harrison in my eyes is a player of the future who still has lots to learn but plays with no fear and a desire to score points.”
Western Force flyer Byron Ralston finished a further two votes behind Harrison, and received votes from six panellists, commendable recognition of a wonderful campaign in the west coming off the back a premiership season with Brothers in Brisbane.
Huge congratulations to Harry Wilson on taking out the 2019 Rising Star award, and there is no doubt at all we will be seeing a lot more of him in the very near future.
My sincere thanks to all my fellow panellists, too, for being so willing to cast an eye over the best emerging rugby talent in Australia.
NRC RISING STAR NOMINEES
Round 1: Will Harrison (Sydney flyhalf)
Round 2: Connor Vest (NSW Country lock)
Round 3: Noah Lolesio (Canberra flyhalf)
Round 4: Fraser McReight (Brisbane City backrower)
Round 5: Harry Wilson (Queensland Country no.8)
Round 6: Byron Ralston (Western Force winger)
Round 7: Will Harris (NSW Country no.8)
NRC Rising Star voting panel
Damon Murphy, Tim Gavel, Mitch Hardy (via Mick Colliss), Dan Parkes, Richard Svenson, Jaybor Staunton, Martin Lippiatt (all RUGBY.com.au NRC commentators), Emma Greenwood and Brett McKay (RUGBY.com.au NRC writers), Pete Fairbairn (RUPA), and Nick Wasiliev (Green & Gold Rugby).