Wallabies back-row David Pocock has been recognised by his peers and fans, claiming both the Medal for Excellence and the People’s Choice Award after a stellar 2015.
Pocock was a standout in the Wallabies’ recent World Cup campaign following a Super Rugby season in which the 27-year-old was named the Brumbies’ Player of the Year.
The Medal for Excellence, the highest honour given out at the lunch, is voted on by Super Rugby players from every franchise on the basis of a player’s contributions on and off the field.
It’s his second medal, adding to a 2010 win and follows a season in which he returned from back-to-back knee reconstructions.
Pocock takes the mantle from 2014 winner and Queensland Reds captain James Slipper, beating out Israel Folau, Liam Gill, Scott Higginbotham, Greg Holmes, Michael Hooper, Steve Mafi, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon and Ita Vaea for the honour.
His second win came in the People’s Choice Award, a gong of little surprise after his rise to near cult figure status through the World Cup.
The Brumbies flanker is currently on holiday in South Africa but accepted his awards in a video message.
“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 to win the RUPA Medal for Excellence.”
Vaea didn’t go home empty-handed, recognised for his incredible comeback season with the NRC award.
The 26-year-old thought his rugby career was over after doctors discovered blood clots on his heart but he returned to the football field, starting for the Brumbies in round two.
Melbourne Rebels winger Sefa Naivalu took out the Newcomer of the Year award, keeping it in the Rebels' fold after teammate Sean McMahon’s win last year.
Players were recognised for their off-field achievements at the awards, with Waratahs forward Paddy Ryan taking out the Community Service Award.
Ryan has been a long-time advocate for mental health awareness and was selected to represent RUPA at Good Pitch Australia, a global forum discussing major social issues.
Queensland Reds prop Ben Daley won the Academic Achievement Award, after finishing his law degree earlier this year.
World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year nominee Charlotte Caslick was voted by her teammates as the Women’s Sevens’ Players’ Player, while Cam Clark won the Men’s for the second year in a row.