Sharpe simply the best
Wallaby captain Nathan Sharpe continued his remarkable swansong season by winning the John Eales Medal.
Five years after winning his first John Eales Medal and 10 years after taking out the Rookie of the Year award, Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe has been named the 2012 John Eales Medallist.
Australia’s most capped forward became just the second player in the history of the medal to be crowned for a second time, joining George Smith, the man who he surpassed as the most capped Test forward in Australia’s history a few weeks ago.
In front of more than 400 people at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour, Sharpe polled 259 votes, 24 ahead of his nearest rival David Pocock and 88 ahead of last year’s Under-20 Player of the Year, Michael Hooper.
The John Eales Medal is presented to the player considered by his peers to be the most outstanding contributor over the previous 12-month period.
Votes are cast on a 3-2-1 basis by each member of the 22-man Wallabies squad after every Test played during the voting period.
The 2012 John Eales Medal was decided over 19 Tests – seven from last year’s Rugby World Cup, the stand alone Test against Wales in December, the four June Tests, six Rugby Championship Tests and the third and final Bledisloe Cup Test of 2012.
Sharpe (259 votes) polled votes in 15 of the 19 Tests and came home strongly to take the award from the 2011 John Eales Medallist, Pocock (235), this year’s Rookie of the Year winner Hooper (171) and Wallabies playmaker Berrick Barnes (160).
The awarding of the 2012 John Eales Medal caps off an incredible career for the 112-Test veteran who has also received the 2002 Rookie of the Year Award and was crowned the John Eales Medallist in 2007.
As well as being named the 2012 John Eales Medallist, Sharpe also took out two other awards on the night.
Sharpe was named Australia’s Choice – Wallabies Player of the Year, an award voted by fans over the past three weeks for the Wallabies player they believe to be the most valuable to the side over the past 12-months.
With 48 players eligible to receive votes Sharpe ran away with the polling, registering 1,068 votes, almost 400 more than second-placed Quade Cooper (680), third-placed Hooper (664), Mike Harris in fourth place (482) and Pocock in fifth place (451).
Sharpe was also awarded the inaugural Spirit of Rugby – Nick Farr-Jones Award for his services to rugby.
The new award recognises the outstanding contribution in a given year made by an active participant in the game – player, referee, coach, administrator or volunteer – at any level of rugby.
Named after Australia’s first Rugby World Cup-winning captain, Nick Farr-Jones, the winner of the Spirit of Rugby Award is deemed to be a person who best upholds the ethos and spirit of rugby on and off the field.
Sharpe was handed the award after he twice called off his retirement to lead the Wallabies in the second half of the 2012 season.
Hooper capped off an outstanding 2012 being named the Rookie of the Year after stepping in to the Wallabies line-up for the injured Pocock.
Hooper, who finished third in the overall John Eales Medal count, made his debut against Scotland in June and went on to feature in nine of a possible 11 Tests in 2012.
His rise up the John Eales Medal voting came in the final six games of the year where he was named Man of Gold on three occasions, for his performances against the Springboks in Perth and Pretoria and the Pumas in Rosario.
The Try of the Year Award went to Wallabies prop, Ben Alexander, for his five-pointer against the Springboks in Perth.
The try was Alexander’s third of his career and was a turning point in the Wallabies’ 26-19 win over the South Africans, helping Australia to a second place finish in the inaugural Rugby Championship.
Other award winners this evening included former QRU President and Chairman and former ARU Chairman Dick McGruther OBE, who was named the winner of the 2012 Joe French Award for his services to rugby over the past three decades.
Mr McGruther OBE was an instrumental figure in the game’s move from its amateur roots to professionalism and also served as ARU’s representative at the IRB for a number of years.
Sevens captain, Ed Jenkins, took out the Sevens Player of the Year – the Shawn Mackay award for his achievements during the 2011/12 IRB Sevens World Series.
Jenkins also led the side to a strong victory in the Oceania Sevens Championships earlier this year, and in doing so secured Australia’s place at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Russia.
Dual international, Emilee Cherry, was announced as the Women’s Player of the Year after a standout debut season in 2011/12 that saw her participate in all of the Women’s Sevens tournaments last season, including Hong Kong and Dubai.
Australian Under-20 prop, Curtis Browning, was named the Under-20 Player of the Year after a strong 2012 season.
Browning, who is the third most capped Australian Schoolboy in history and the grandson of former Wallaby Dick Marks, struck an imposing figure at the 2012 Junior World Championship this year.
Steve Walsh, who officiated in his fourth Rugby World Cup last year, received the Referee of the Year award for the second year running.
Brumbies Rugby Volunteer, Mick Pini, was announced as the 2012 Volunteer of the Year for his dedication to rugby over the past 19 years.
Mr Pini received the award for his significant achievements at the ACT Junior Rugby Union, ACT Schools Rugby Union and St Edmunds College as well as his word as a Talent Identification volunteer for Australian Rugby Union.
The inaugural Wallabies Ultimate Fan was also crowned this evening, with Victorian Allen Gray presented with a uniquely struck Ultimate Fan Medal.
Gray was deemed the inaugural Wallabies Ultimate Fan after he successfully accumulated the most points in the Wallabies 2012 ‘Rugby Rewards’ Facebook application.
The evening also saw the acknowledgment of this year's Wallaby Hall of Fame inductees Francis Wallace Meagher, Tony Shaw and Geoff Shaw.
2012 John Eales Medal top ten:
1. Sharpe Nathan 259
2. David Pocock 235
3. Michael Hooper 171
4. Berrick Barnes 160
5. Will Genia 149
6. Kurtley Beale 144
7. Adam Ashley-Cooper 131
8. Scott Higginbotham 120
9. Digby Ioane 108
10. Sitaleki Timani 103