Pocock & Pelite at the double, as players celebrated at RUPA Awards

By Pete Fairbairn, 11.12.18

Wallabies and Brumbies star David Pocock has been voted Australia’s outstanding Rugby player by his peers for a third time, securing the 2018 RUPA Medal For Excellence in front of over 300 guests at the Volvo RUPA Awards Lunch in Sydney on Wednesday to match his triumphs in 2010 and 2015.

The Medal For Excellence, which is voted on by the entire Super Rugby playing fraternity within Australia, asks players to consider all on-field performances of 2018, as well as excellence outside of it.

It is the most widely player-voted individual honour in the game and Pocock is only the second player to win it more than twice, with four-time winner Nathan Sharpe (2002, 2005, 2011 & 2012) also present at The Ivy to celebrate Pocock’s wonderful season.

It wasn’t the only time Pocock was called to the stage, with the Australian public also voting him the Taylors Wines People’s Choice Australian Player of the Year in an extraordinary dead-heat alongside Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens star Evania Pelite OAM.

Pelite, who also won the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Players’ Player of the Year, had a breakout year in 2017-18, earning selection in the World Rugby Sevens Dream Team as the Australians won their second World Rugby Sevens Championship.

Seven players were formally inducted into the RUPA Centurions Club, an exclusive group consisting of the 59 players who have made over 100 Super Rugby appearances for Australian teams. Bernard Foley, Mark Gerrard, Drew Mitchell, Pocock, Nathan Sharpe and Laurie Weeks were presented with their Centurions Club Tie on stage by one of last year’s inductees, Stirling Mortlock AM, who was one of the close to 100 current and former players in attendance at this year’s Lunch.

In other Awards, Folau Fainga’a (Brumbies/Wallabies) and Jordan Petaia (Queensland Reds/Queensland Country) saw their first seasons of professional Rugby recognised by their peers as the Newcomer of the Year and NRC Players’ Player of the Year respectively. Ben O’Donnell’s debut World Rugby Sevens series was also an instant hit, as he won the Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Players’ Player of the Year Award.

Away from Rugby, Brumbies lock Sam Carter’s commitment to study saw him take home the Academic Achievement Award, as he prepares to complete his Bachelor of Business and Commerce (Human Resource Management) at the end of this Semester. It’s been a stop-start eleven-year slog for Carter, who got married last week and told the room via a video recording that in his case it should be referred to as the Academic Persistence Award. RUPA Chairman Bruce Hodgkinson AM SC chose Carter from an incredibly strong field of finalists, in recognition of the example that he sets to others that it is never too late to focus on your studies.

NSW Waratahs backrower Jed Holloway was the recipient of the Community Service Award, acknowledging the many years of tireless devotion to the Starlight Foundation, alongside his willingness to invest a huge amount of time to promoting the game at Clubs and Schools across New South Wales.

RUPA President Damien Fitzpatrick paid tribute to Award winners Pocock, Pelite, Carter, Fainga’a, Holloway, O’Donnell and Petaia, and all players nominated.

“To all of the finalists in every category, congratulations on all of your achievements in 2018, and may they be the springboard ahead of next year and beyond,” Fitzpatrick said.

“To the winners of today’s Awards, your peers have seen you as the benchmark performers of the year; you should be exceptionally proud of that.

“David Pocock’s year has been exceptional and he has been deservedly adjudged the single most outstanding player by his Brumbies and Wallabies teammates, and his Australian opponents,” Fitzpatrick said.

“David has set such an exceptionally high standard for himself over his time playing the game, yet continues to raise the bar, and he is a richly deserving winner of the RUPA Medal For Excellence for the third time. Being adjudged the People’s Choice, alongside one of the most exciting Rugby players in the country in Evania Pelite, only further validates the players’ vote.

“To Evania, Folau Fainga’a, Ben O’Donnell and Jordan Petaia, I extend the congratulations of the entire playing group on being chosen as the best in your respective categories. It’s exciting to imagine that you all have so many years of professional Rugby ahead of you, and you have set yourselves a high standard to uphold; if you manage to do so in the coming years, you will be regarded as among the very best in the game.

“Finally, to Sam Carter and Jed Holloway, your years of tireless work away from Rugby have been acknowledged with two very different, but incredibly important, Awards. Striking the right balance between Rugby and what you do away from the game has never been so important, and you have both deservedly been rewarded for prioritising that balance in your lives.”

2018 Volvo RUPA Awards Lunch Winners:

- RUPA Medal For Excellence: David Pocock (Brumbies/Wallabies)

- RUPA Newcomer of the Year: Folau Fainga’a (Brumbies/Wallabies)

- NRC Players’ Player of the Year: Jordan Petaia (Queensland Country)

- Taylors Wines People Choice’s Australian Player of the Year: Evania Pelite OAM (Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens) and David Pocock (Wallabies)

- Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Players’ Player of the Year: Ben O’Donnell

- Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Players’ Player of the Year: Evania Pelite OAM

- Academic Achievement Award: Sam Carter (Brumbies)

- Community Service Award: Jed Holloway (NSW Waratahs)

Previous winners, RUPA Medal For Excellence:

- Berrick Barnes (2009)

- Brendan Cannon (2003)

- Nick Cummins (2013)

- George Gregan (2001, 2004 & 2006)

- Christian Leali’ifano (2016)

- Isi Naisarani (2017)

- David Pocock (2010 & 2015)

- Nathan Sharpe (2002, 2005, 2001 & 2012)

- James Slipper (2014)

- George Smith (2007 & 2008)

Pete Fairbairn
Communications Manager
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