Michael Hooper has been named as the Waratahs players’ player of the year, with Israel Folau best back and Benn Robinson best forward.
Hooper lifted the Matthew Burke Cup at the team’s annual Awards Dinner held at Sydney’s ivy and attended by key sponsors, stakeholders, members and Waratahs players and staff.
It is his second accolade in a matter of weeks, after the 21-year-old was recently named Australia’s Super Rugby player of the year for 2013 by the country’s leading media pundits.
Having made the most line breaks of any forward in competition, the most metres run of any Australian forward and the second most metres run of any forward overall, Hooper finished his first year with the Waratahs with 298 votes.
In second place with 200 votes, Folau picked up the award for best back, and also scooped the Members’ Choice Player of the Year, just hours after announcing he had re-signed with the Waratahs for a further two seasons.
In third place was last year’s best back, Adam Ashley-Cooper, who amassed a total of 171 votes, just four clear of fellow back Bernard Foley, who came in fourth.
The season’s best forward, Benn Robinson, came in fifth with 150 votes, whilst Sitaleki Timani, Peter Betham, Wycliff Palu, Kane Douglas and Paddy Ryan rounded out the top ten.
Voting is conducted after every Super Rugby match, with each player in the match day 22 submitted their votes on a 3-2-1 basis to determine the overall result.
Leading the voting throughout the season, Hooper had amassed a massive 153 votes in the first six matches, almost double the tally of second-placed Foley, who led Robinson and Ashley-Cooper by just 12 votes.
After Round 13 against the Stormers, Hooper’s advantage had been cut to just 29 points with the arrival in the top three of Folau, whose dominant performances against the Chiefs, Bulls and Kings saw him leap up four places after monopolising the voting in those rounds.
But after a try-scoring effort in the win over the Brumbies in Round 14 and two further points’ hauls in the games that followed against the Rebels and Crusaders, Hooper’s lead was unassailable. After a Wallaby-enforced absence against the Force, he returned with a man-of-the-match performance in the season-closing game against the Reds to close out an outstanding inaugural season in the sky blue.
Newcomer Will Skelton received the Chris Whitaker Aspiring Waratah Award, won last year by Bernard Foley, while Hooper also collected the prestigious Waratah Medal for on and off-field excellence.
The 2013 Members’ Choice Player of the Year Award went to Folau, who received 37% of members’ votes, beating Ashley-Cooper (15%), Foley (13%), Hooper and Dave Dennis (6% each).
Seventeen debutants were presented with their New South Wales caps after making their first appearances for the Waratahs this season, while centurian Tatafu Polota Nau was honoured after becoming the seventh player to earn 100 caps. Also honoured were four players reaching the half-century through the course of the season: Dennis, Sekope Kepu, Rob Horne and Kane Douglas.