Brumbies and Wallabies back-rower David Pocock has crowned an outstanding 2015 season by taking out the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) Medal for Excellence, Australia’s highest player-voted individual honour.
Pocock, who won the same award in 2010, was also chosen by the people of Australia as their favourite rugby player in 2015, with his on and off-field performance and commitment acknowledged as he topped the online poll in the Peoples Choice Award.
Speaking about winning the RUPA Medal for Excellence from Africa, where he is enjoying a well-earned holiday, Pocock said it was a very special honour.
“I’m sorry I can’t be there today to accept this in person, but it’s always an honour to be recognised by your peers,” he said.
“They are the ones you play alongside and against and, at the end of the day, their opinion really does matter, so it’s a huge honour.”
The awards capped a remarkable 2015 for Pocock in which the 26-year-old calmly dispelled any doubts about his long-term durability as he shrugged off two seasons ruined by serious knee injuries to star for the Brumbies on their run to the Super Rugby semi-finals.
He scored eight tries for the Brumbies, including two hat-tricks, while in defence he made more than 96 per cent of the tackles he attempted, and as always, was a constant threat at the breakdown for any opposing player.
Pocock was then one of the genuine stars of the Wallabies’ run to the Rugby World Cup final and he was named in the team of the tournament for the second successive time.
He scored a double in Australia’s opening Pool A clash against Fiji and also crossed against New Zealand in the final.
Away from rugby, Pocock is studying a Bachelor of Ecological Agricultural Systems at Charles Sturt University, and he is keenly interested in environmental and conservation issues.
Melbourne Rebels winger Sefanaia Naivalu capped a memorable first season as a professional player as he was voted the newcomer of the year.
Sefa, who created history in September 2014 as the first player to sign for the Rebels directly from Victorian club rugby, continued to defy the odds when he cemented himself as a regular starter with the Rebels during his maiden Super Rugby campaign in 2015.
He played 13 matches before injury brought his season to a premature close, scoring four tries in the process with a highlight being the match winner in his club’s first victory against the Brumbies in Canberra.
NSW Waratahs and Wallabies prop Paddy Ryan was selected as the winner of the 2015 Community Service Award.
A long-time advocate for breaking down the stigmas associated with depression and mental health, Ryan was selected to represent RUPA and all of its members at the world’s leading forum for social impact, Good Pitch Australia 2015.