Marika Koroibete has signed off an outstanding 2019 season by claiming the John Eales Medal at tonight’s Rugby Australia Awards in Sydney.
It’s a first award for Koroibete who only transitioned from Rugby League back to the 15-man game ahead of the 2017 Vodafone Super Rugby season.
The 27-year old polled 200 votes from his Wallabies teammates, 50 clear of second-placed Samu Kerevi, with the winger storming home following several standout performances at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
It was a night of celebration for the Qantas Australian Men’s and Women’s Sevens sides with both teams having booked their place at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo following the Men’s dramatic win over Samoa in Suva last weekend. Hot-stepper Maurice Longbottom took out the Shawn Mackay Award for Men’s Sevens Player of the Year while Charlotte Caslick was named Women’s Sevens Player of the Year as reward for her fine season.
Longbottom finished the 2018/19 season with a team-high 34 tries to place him sixth on the tryscorers list for the HSBC Men’s World Sevens Series with Caslick amassing 20 tries for the Women despite missing a tournament due to injury.
Buildcorp Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton dominated voting to take home the Buildcorp Wallaroos Player of the Year after starring in the Test series against Japan and backing it up against the Black Ferns.
It was fitting that legendary halves pairing George Gregan and Stephen Larkham were inducted into the Wallabies Hall of Fame together with the centurions celebrated in front of a packed house at Sydney’s Seymour Centre. Gregan, Australia’s most-capped Test player, accepted the award on Larkham’s behalf with the 102-Test flyhalf currently serving as an Assistant Coach at Irish club side Munster.
Two future stars shared the stage for the Rugby Australia Rookie of the Year as Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea and Jordan Petaia were both rewarded for their breakout years. Lefau-Fakaosilea and Petaia have both been long earmarked for the big stage and didn’t disappoint during their maiden campaigns with the Buildcorp Wallaroos and Qantas Wallabies respectively.
Junior Wallabies captain, Fraser McReight secured back-to-back Player of the Year awards with the prodigious flanker earning recognition for his herculean performances at the World Rugby U20 Championships in Argentina, where his side fell agonisingly short in the Final against France.
Queenslander, and Souths club stalwart Peter ‘Doubles’ Daley was recognised with the Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award for services to the game while long-time NSW Waratahs doctor Sharron Flahive received the Joe French Award for her outstanding contribution to Rugby following 20 years as the team physician.
The HSBC Volunteer of the Year was again shared in 2019 with husband and wife duo Ben and Selina Blyton from Palmerston Rugby Club in the Northern Territory recognised for their influence in growing the game while Vaasa Afa from the Easts Rugby Club in Brisbane earned the Geoff ‘Bunter’ Shaw Community Coach of the Year Award.
Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle congratulated all those recognised: “On behalf of Rugby Australia I congratulate all of our award winners for their tremendous contribution to the game in 2019.
“The Rugby Australia Awards is a night to celebrate everyone in our great game from the volunteers who run the game at the community level right through to the players, coaches and match officials representing the country on the international stage.
“Once again this year there were some outstanding highlights and achievements across the sport and tonight was a great opportunity to recognise some special individuals that delivered above and beyond throughout 2019.”
Rugby Australia Awards 2019 Award Winners
HSBC Volunteer of the Year: Ben and Selina Blyton
Roger Vanderfield TNT Referee of the Year: Nic Berry
Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award: Peter ‘Doubles’ Daley
Joe French Award: Sharron Flahive
Geoff ‘Bunter’ Shaw Community Coach of the Year Award: Vaasa Afa
Junior Wallabies Player of the Year: Fraser McReight
Rugby Australia Rookie of the Year: Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea and Jordan Petaia
Rugby Australia Try of the Year: Nic White
Buildcorp Super W Player of the Year: Tayla Stanford
Vodafone Super Rugby Player of the Year: Samu Kerevi
Australia’s Choice – Qantas Wallaby of the Year: Michael Hooper
Buildcorp Wallaroos Player of the Year: Grace Hamilton
The Shawn MacKay Award – Men’s Sevens Player of the Year: Maurice Longbottom
The Shawn MacKay Award – Women’s Sevens Player of the Year: Charlotte Caslick
John Eales Medal: Marika Koroibete