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Qantas Wallabies vice-captain and NSW Waratahs flanker Michael Hooper has claimed the 2016 John Eales Medal, winning the award for a second time. Hooper’s standout season saw the 24-year-old score four tries for the Qantas Wallabies in 2016 to be named Australia’s Man of the Match in three out of the six domestic Tests.
Hooper was the clear leader of the 2016 Wallabies squad's 'player's player' 3-2-1 votes, amassing 296 points during the designated period from the pre-World Cup USA Test on 5 September 2015 to the final Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand on 22 October 2016. Despite injuries this year, David Pocock’s incredible World Cup campaign elevated him to second position with 189 votes, finishing ahead of Bernard Foley, Will Genia and Israel Folau who rounded out the top five. In winning the John Eales Medal for a second time, Hooper follows in the footsteps of Israel Folau (2014, 2015), George Smith (2002, 2008) and Nathan Sharpe (2007, 2012) who have all won rugby’s most prestigious award twice.
Michael Hooper also scooped up the award for Australia’s Choice Wallaby of the Year for the fourth year in a row, an incredible feat considering it is just his fifth year playing for the Wallabies.
In the first ever Olympic year for Rugby Sevens, Charlotte Caslick won the Shawn Mackay Award for Qantas Women’s Sevens Player of the Year after guiding her team to its maiden HSBC Sevens World Series victory, and then scoring seven tries during their successful Olympic gold medal campaign in Rio.
Captain of the Men's Sevens Team and Australia's most-capped Sevens player, Ed Jenkins was named Qantas Men’s Sevens Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, recognised for his valuable contribution during the team's best World Series season in four years.
Wallaroos captain Ash Hewson was named Women’s Player of the Year after leading Sydney to back-to-back victories at the Buildcorp Women’s XVs National Championships and her standout performances in the Wallaroos' historic two-Test series against the Black Ferns in New Zealand.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver congratulated Hooper on winning the 2016 John Eales Medal.
“Michael has an enviable talent and is a wonderful ambassador for our game. Time and time again, he shows an unparalleled commitment to all that he does in the gold jersey. He thoroughly deserves to receive this accolade for the second time," he said.
“Over the past twelve months, Michael has been consistently one of the most impressive players in the world, and this was never more evident than during last year’s World Cup when he combined masterfully with David Pocock to steer Australia to the final.
“Michael is still 24 but has shown than age is no barrier after having been named Australia’s youngest Test captain in 2014. As vice-captain of the Wallabies this year he has helped to lead the team admirably. We are excited to see what Michael and his team mates can do on the field during the coming Grand Slam tour, and we know they will be doing all they can to make us proud.”
Pulver also heaped praise on the Australian Women's Sevens team and congratulated Caslick on taking the crown for women's player of the year.
“To be named the best women's player of the 2016 Olympics is an astounding feat, and Charlotte thoroughly deserves this award,” Pulver said.
"The whole team also deserves to be congratulated for their outstanding year. To be crowned World Series and Olympic Champions in the same year is an amazing achievement, especially considering that the players were brought together just three years ago.
“The success of our Women’s Sevens team in Rio captivated the nation and put the sport of Sevens on the map, both here in Australia and all over the world.
"Ed Jenkins had a great season too, especially during the team's scintillating 2016 Sydney 7s campaign. I am incredibly excited for our Women’s team and our Men's team to have the opportunity to play at the upcoming HSBC Sydney 7s in front of their home fans, and I’m sure that everyone who comes along will be in awe of the exciting brand of Rugby that our men and women play.
"Finally, I'd like to congratulate the captain of our Wallaroos, Ash Hewson. It has been an historic year for the Wallaroos, playing in their first ever double header at Eden Park, and Ash has been a fantastic role model for her team both on and off the field."
Other awards presented at the John Eales Medal ceremony included the latest inductees to the Wallaby Hall of Fame. Pre-World War 2 Wallaby Tasmanian-born John “Jack” Ford, former Wallabies captain John Solomon and the late Peter Johnson were the three players chosen to join an elite group of just 35 others in the Wallaby Hall of Fame. Each inductee was chosen for demonstrating outstanding ability, sportsmanship, commitment, character and personal contribution to their team and the game in their era.
WA-based Dane Haylett-Petty who won the Western Force's 2016 Nathan Sharpe Medal capped off his brilliant start to the 2016 Test season by adding the Qantas Wallabies Rookie of the Year award to his mantelpiece after playing ten Tests this year.
After making more run metres and tackle busts than any other Australian forward during the 2016 Super Rugby season, Qantas Wallabies backrower and Melbourne Rebels stalwart Sean McMahon was named Asteron Life Super Rugby Player of the Year. His team mate, 22-year-old utility back Reece Hodge was named Asteron Life Super Rugby Rookie of the Year.
Qantas Wallabies Assistant Coach Stephen Larkham collected the Asteron Life Super Rugby Coach of the Year award after leading the ACT Brumbies to the qualifying finals. For topping the Australian Super Rugby conference, the Brumbies were named the Asteron Life Super Rugby Team of the Year.
New Melbourne Rebels recruit Tyrel Lomax took the gong as the Australian U20s Player of the Year after impressing during the Oceania U20s Championship matches against New Zealand and at the World Rugby U20s Championship in England.
Co-founders of the Modified Rugby Program, Megan and Anthony Elliot were presented with the Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award and Alec Evans received the Joe French Award for his service to Australian Rugby as a coach and player.
The HSBC Volunteer of the Year title was awarded to Deon Norval from Uni Norths Owls in Canberra, while Dougal Whitton from Canberra Royals Rugby Club was recognised as Lifetime Volunteer of the Year and Hayden Croghan from Palmyra Rugby Club, WA, claimed HSBC’s Young Volunteer award. Norval will receive $10,000 from HSBC for his club, while Whitton and Croghan receive $5,000 each to be directed to their respective rugby clubs.
Angus Gardner collected two trophies for TNT Super Rugby Referee of the Series and the Roger Vanderfield Award Referee of the Year, while Tamworth’s Kylie Dawson took home the Geoff ‘Bunter’ Shaw Community Coach of the Year award.
2016 John Eales Medal Awards
John Eales Medal: Michael Hooper
Qantas Wallabies Rookie of the Year: Dane Haylett-Petty
Qantas Wallabies Try of the Year: Drew Mitchell (most responsible for Adam Ashley-Cooper's try), Australia v Argentina, Twickenham Stadium, 2015 Rugby World Cup Semi Final
Australia’s Choice – Qantas Wallaby of the Year: Michael Hooper
Wallabies Hall of Fame: John ‘Jack’ Ford, John Solomon, Peter Johnson
Asteron Life Super Rugby Player of the Year: Sean McMahon, Melbourne Rebels
Asteron Life Super Rugby Team of the Year: ACT Brumbies
Asteron Life Super Rugby Coach of the Year: Stephen Larkham, ACT Brumbies
Asteron Life Super Rugby Rookie of the Year: Reece Hodge, Melbourne Rebels
Asteron Life Super Rugby Try of the Year: Nick Frisby (most responsible for Jake McIntyre's try), Queensland Reds v Blues, Suncorp Stadium, Round 4
Super Rugby TNT Referee of the Series: Angus Gardner
Buildcorp National Rugby Championship Player of the Year: Irae Simone, Sydney Rays
Australian U20s Player of the Year: Tyrel Lomax
The Shawn Mackay Award Qantas Men’s Sevens Player of the Year: Ed Jenkins
The Shawn Mackay Award Qantas Women’s Sevens Player of the Year: Charlotte Caslick
Women’s XVs Player of the Year: Ashleigh Hewson
Joe French Award: Alec Evans
Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award: Megan and Anthony Elliot
Roger Vanderfield Award - Referee of the Year: Angus Gardner
HSBC Volunteer of the Year: Deon Norval, Uni Norths Owls Rugby Club, ACT
HSBC Lifetime Volunteer of the Year: Dougal Whitton, Canberra Royals Rugby Club, ACT
HSBC Young Volunteer of the Year (U25): Hayden Croghan, Palmyra Rugby Club, WA
Geoff ‘Bunter’ Shaw Community Coach of the Year: Kylie Dawson, Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School Rugby, Tamworth, NSW and NSW Central Norths Rugby