Rugby Australia Awards 2019: All the contenders for this year's gongs

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The 2019 Rugby Australia Awards are just two days away and for many of the top gongs, there are host of contenders. has taken a look at each of the major awards and pulled out some of the frontrunners.

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It’s another fairly wide open race for the John Eales Medal in 2019 and it appears likely to be headed to a new winner this time around. Michael Hooper and David Pocock are the only players in the 2019 squad who have won the medal in previous years.A niggling calf injury, and a neck concern late last year, meant Pocock missed much of the voting period but he was among the best when he returned. Hooper was at his consistent best, but sometimes the bar he sets for himself can cost him votes. Lock Izack Rodda and Rory Arnold have been super consistent in the past year while centre Samu Kerevi had his best Wallabies season as well. Hooker Tolu Latu was a standout in the World Cup and could garner some late votes for those performances, with the whole front row department also potentially laying claims to a high finish. While the backline chopped and changed plenty in the past year, winger Marika Koroibete proved a constant in the lineup and could certainly be rewarded for his best year yet.



The Wallaroos had their busiest non-World Cup year in 2019 and the performance of their players showed that the investment in the women’s game was paying off. Skipper Grace Hamilton had another sensational Test season, her first as captain, and was named player of the match on a number of occasions. Millie Boyle had a breakout representative season across both rugby and rugby league and was consistently in the best this year. Mahalia Murphy was a weapon in the backline while debutants Lori Cramer and Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea both looked right at home in their first Test seasons as well.



The Aussie men chopped and changed a bit in the 2018-19 series with a host of new and old faces having opportunities to shine. Nick Malouf was certainly one of the team’s best in his first year back after a stint with Leicester in the UK, bringing added composure and plenty of skill in his return. Lachie Anderson had some injury setbacks but was consistent when he did feature for the side. Similarly, Maurice Longbottom was impressive when he played but missed tournaments with injury.



Competition will be tight for this one after a year in which a host of Australia’s big names suffered injuries and missed tournaments. Superstar Charlotte Caslick was among the best but missed Sydney with injury. Emma Tonegato had a similarly interrupted year in her comeback from a shoulder injury but still managed to be a major threat when she did play. Ellia Green and Evania Pelite would surely be in the mix againA host of their young guns were given opportunities in the 2018-19 season but probably play enough over the whole series to win this one.



The dilemma of this award is whether it will go to the best team in the Australian conference or a standout in another. The Brumbies forward pack clearly laid the foundations for their run to a Super Rugby semi-final and players like Rory Arnold and Allan Alaalatoa would potentially be in the mix from that number. Even players like Tom Banks or Tom Cusack might have stood out enough to earn some votes. Beyond the Brumbies, Queensland Reds skipper Samu Kerevi can’t really be overlooked. Kerevi only missed one match this year and single-handedly turned a number of games for the Reds.



The Super W unearthed some exciting new talent in 2019 as the competition expanded to a two-week finals series. Cross-code lock Millie Boyle returned from a long injurylayoff to be one of the standouts of the competition while winning Waratahs skipper Grace Hamilton continued to make her presence felt for the back-to-back champions. Outside of the two powerhouses, Mhicca Carter was impressive for Rugby WA and Brumbies no. 8 Tayla Stanford had a breakout season. Stanford’s year was ultimately cruelled by injury but she put some big name opponents on notice with her form this year.



The rookie of the year, across all forms of the game both men’s and women’s, is in its second season in 2019. There were plenty of exciting first-year players across all the international teams. It’s hard to go past teenager Jordan Petaia in the Wallabies fold, though Isi Naisarani was also consistent in his first Test year. When it comes to Wallaroos, Queenslanders Alysia Leafu-Fakaosilea and Lori Cramer made the most of their first years in Test colours.



There will be plenty of contenders for the 2019 U20s Player of the Year given the Junior Wallabies’ success this season. The Aussie youngsters were impressive in their run to Australia’s first World Rugby U20s final since 2011 and skipper Fraser McReight barely put a foot wrong in his second year in the team. Fellow backrowers Harry Wilson and Will Harris were also standouts during the 2019 campaign. In the backs, winger Mark Nawaqanitawase lit up the field in attack while inside back Isaac Lucas took another step up as well.