Australian full back Israel Folau has become the first player to successfully defend his John Eales medal with the Rugby League convert becoming the first player in history to be voted Australia’s Players’ Player of the Year for consecutive seasons.
For the second year running, Folau was the leading vote receiver amongst Wallaby players, with his team-mates voting him to a second consecutive John Eales Medal.
Folau joins George Smith (2002, 2008) and Nathan Sharpe (2007, 2012) as the only dual Eales medalist winners with the Waratahs star seeing off a late David Pocock challenge to win the award with 138 votes.
Folau has scored 18 tries in 33 games for the Wallabies and has followed up his superb sophomore season with the Wallabies with another stellar season in gold, scoring three tries in eight games.
Folau penned a new three-year deal with the Wallabies in July, keeping him within Australian Rugby until 2018, and the Waratahs vice-captain cites his enjoyment and the opportunity to represent Australia at the World Cup as reasoning for staying in Australian rugby.
“I guess I am lucky to play off he back of these guys,” Folau told the Canberra Times.
“I am always confident. But there are always things you can work on in your game.
“I enjoy playing the game. That is the most important thing for me. Hence why I decided to play on [in rugby].
“When I made the decision, that [Rugby World Cup] was sitting on top of the list,” Folau said.
“It is the pinnacle of world rugby and where you want to test yourself.”
Australia will face the USA at Soldier Field in Chicago on September 5th before kicking off their World Cup campaign against Fiji at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff on September 24th.
Full list of winners from the ARU Gala Dinner:
Wallabies rookie of the year: Sean McMahon (Melbourne Rebels)
Wallabies try of the year: Nick Phipps (Wallabies v Ireland, Dublin)
Australia’s Choice – Wallaby of the year: Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
Hall of Fame: John “Jock” Blackwood, Cyril Burke and Tim Horan
Super Rugby player of the year: David Pocock (Brumbies)
Super Rugby team of the year: NSW Waratahs
Super Rugby coach of the year: Michael Cheika (NSW Waratahs)
Super Rugby rookie of the year: Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
Super Rugby try of the year: Israel Folau (most responsible), Tolu Latu (try), Waratahs v Brumbies, round six
Super Rugby referee of the series: Angus Gardner
Australian under-20s player of the year: Michael Gunn
Shawn Mackay Award Sevens player of the year: Ed Jenkins (men); Sharni Williams (women)
Women’s player of the year: Ariana Kaiwai (Sydney)
Joe French Award: Joan Forno
Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby: Jeffrey Sayle OAM
Roger Vanderfield Award, referee of the year: Anthony Moyes
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena