Sweet victory for 'Honey Badger'

Wed, 11 Dec 2013 08:47
The fourth consecutive winner from the Western Force

Wallaby wing Nick Cummins has upstaged Israel Folau and Michael Hooper to be voted the Australian players' Player of the Year.

The 26-year-old won the Medal of Excellence for his blistering form on the Wallabies' recent European tour, his perseverance after an injury-hampered Super Rugby season and his charity work.

The medal recognises not only on-field performances but also an individual's contribution to the community, the Australian Rugby Union said.

He only managed six games with the Force in the Super Rugby season before starring on the Wallabies' European tour last month.

Cummins was named man of the match in the Wallabies' first Test of the tour against England and backed up with a try-scoring double against Italy and another crucial five-pointer against Ireland.

Off the field, the man affectionately known as the Honey Badger also had a busy year.

The crowd favourite participated in numerous Western Force community events, particularly charity work with Ronald McDonald House.

Openside flank Hooper had been favoured to take the title after recently winning the prestigious John Eales Medal.

The other finalists Folau and fellow Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano were upstaged by Cummins, who becomes the fourth consecutive winner from the Western Force after David Pocock (2010) and Nathan Sharpe (2011 and 2012).

While he missed out on the major award, Folau capped his spectacular entrance to rugby by being named RUPA's Newcomer of the Year.

This comes a week after the Waratahs fullback was named the International Rugby Players Association's International Newcomer of the Year following a dream debut season in the code.

The 24-year-old equalled fellow dual international Lote Tuqiri's all-time record for most tries in a season by a Wallaby and was also named Australia's Super Rugby rookie of the year.

Folau also picked up the People's Choice Player of the Year for 2013 at Wednesday's RUPA awards.

For the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, voting was turned over to the public to select who they felt was worthy of being named the player of the year.

Folau claimed the prize narrowly from Waratahs and Wallabies teammate Hooper and flyhalf Quade Cooper.