Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper has claimed a runaway John Eales Medal win, becoming the fourth player to claim the highest rugby honour twice.
Hooper, who claimed the award in 2013 as well, ended Israel Folau’s run of wins, joining the fullback, George Smith and Nathan Sharpe as dual winners.
The number seven beat out David Pocock by 107 votes to win the award, with his backrow partner finishing second despite missing five Tests in 2016, with his World Cup domination propelling him up the leaderboard.
Will Genia, Bernard Foley and Folau rounded out the top five in the medal count, which is voted on a 3-2-1 basis by the Wallabies players each Test, running from last year’s Chicago Test until the third Bledisloe on October 22.
The voting period included Hooper’s 50th Test, a milestone he reached in the shortest amount of time of any Test player.
Hooper, 24, was also voted the fan favourite for a remarkable fourth year in a row, with his award double answering some early season critics.
It’s been an incredible run for the flanker, who has ticked off many milestones in just five years on the Wallabies scene and he said this and his other John Eales Medal would be something to reflect on once he finally hangs up the boots, though that won’t be for a while yet.
“I hope I can keep playing and staying on the field. I’ve had a really good run, being able to stay on the field and like I’ve been saying. it’s so much fun, it’s something you’re chasing to do all the time. I’ve had a good run at it, I want to keep that trend up.
“My face feels old,” he joked.
“I’ve got some marks and some scars to show for it but that’s footy, that’s the stupid game we play and just anything for those wins and stuff, it’s all worth it.
“When I finish footy, I can look back and be happy with my career then and that’s what i’m hoping to do.”
Hooper was still wearing the wounds of the final Bledisloe Test, saying he would give up individual accolades for an elusive trans-Tasman win.
“Wins are why you play, it’s the ultimate team game and we played a really good 60 minutes, just missed out on a little bit there,” he said.
Outside back Dane Haylett-Petty was rewarded for his consistent debut Test season with the Wallabies Rookie of the Year award, in a year with plenty of competition after 11 new players were blooded into the team.
Another back row star, Sean McMahon, beat out Hooper to take the Super Rugby Player of the Year gong, with his Rebels teammate and breakout star Reece Hodge topping the rookie poll.
McMahon said he wasn’t expecting the award, which adds to a collection of trophies he has won through his career so far.
“I knew I had a decent season, there was a reason I got a call up to the Wallabies and to get this opportunity and to get this award is a pretty big deal. I’ve just been focusing on building my career and continuing to play well every year, so to get this was quite a big surprise and I’m quite excited.”
Charlotte Caslick topped a sensational year, including an attention-grabbing Olympic campaign, named the Shawn Mackay Women’s Sevens Player of the Year.
Caslick said she hoped her success and that of the entire women’s sevens team would help to grow the women’s game.
“It’s been absolutely amazing to see the amount of girls who are involved in rugby now and going down to clubs and seeing multiple girls teams in every division,” she said.
“So exciting they’ve got a great opportunity and fortunate to be given that. Hopefully they make the most of it and we see the depth grow in our squad.”
Ed Jenkins was named the men’s best player, after leading the side to Olympic qualification and becoming Australia’s most-capped Sevens player.
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Wallaroos captain Ash Hewson was crowned the Women’s XVs Player of the Year, after steering her team in a historic two-Test series against New Zealand, off the back of leading Sydney Uni to its second straight national championship.
Sydney Rays centre Irae Simone won the NRC Player of the Year, after a scintillating run through the domestic competition.
U20s prop Tyrel Lomax, signed with the Rebels for 2017, was named the under-age side’s Player of the Year after his standout performance in the World Championships.
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: Brumbies
Asteron Life Super Rugby Coach of the Year: Stephen Larkham, 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
Shawn Mackay Award Qantas Men’s Sevens Player of the Year: Ed Jenkins
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 North Rugby