Sydney - Wallabies and Brumbies playmaker Christian Lealiifano has
won Australia's 2016 Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) Medal for
Lealiifano, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in August of
this year and has been undergoing treatment in Melbourne, was voted by his
peers as the individual who has shown the best performance, leadership,
consistency and discipline, both on and off the field, across the international
and domestic rugby season.
The RUPA Medal for Excellence is the pinnacle of player
Awards in Australian Rugby with the ten finalists comprising of the winner and
runner-up in each Super Rugby team’s Players’ Player Awards, and the winner was
announced at The Ivy at the annual Volvo-RUPA Awards Lunch.
Leali’ifano was voted the Brett Robinson Brumbies’ Players
Player of the Year at the Brumbies Awards night in September, after
co-captaining his side to victory in the Australian Super Rugby conference in
The 29-year-old, who has amassed 117 Super Rugby caps and over 800 points
since joining the Brumbies in 2007, missed just five minutes of the Brumbies’
entire Super Rugby campaign as they topped the Australian conference.
The sixth highest overall point scorer in the 2016 Super
Rugby season with 163 (3 tries, 41 conversions & 22 penalty goals),
Christian also completed a Certificate IV in New Small Business and was
instrumental in the leadership of the Brumbies’ Pasifika players’ development
He is a ‘champion’ for the Canberra Domestic Violence Crisis Service,
and this year he won an ACT Government Violence Prevention Award.
Speaking via video from Melbourne, Leali’ifano thanked his
peers and paid tribute to all of Australia’s professional Rugby players.
“I’m truly, truly humbled and honoured to receive such an
Award,” he said.
“Congratulations to all of the other nominees; I feel like
this is probably an award for all of us, and the great work we do in the
community to grow the game around the country.”
Lealiifano thanked the Rugby community for their support
since his illness was diagnosed.
“I want to thank everybody for all of their support through
this journey this little man and I are on at the moment,” he said. “It
definitely means a lot and we’re all so grateful for your thoughts and
The RUPA Medal for Excellence was officially accepted on
Christian’s behalf by his manager, former Queensland Reds star Clinton
ACT junior and former Queanbeyan White Lewis Holland was
crowned the Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Players’ Player of the Year, ahead of
In 2016 Holland played in 5 world series events and at the
Rio Olympics, with an injury-interrupted season not limiting his output when he
Selected in the Tournament Dream Team in Sydney, Holland also
won the Players’ Player Award there, in Dubai and in Vancouver. Holland twice
scored 5 tries in a tournament, ending with a season tally of 82 points.
Completing a great day for the Australian Rugby Sevens
program, Wagga Wagga local Alicia Quirk became the first non-Super Rugby player
to win the Academic Achievement Award since its’ inception in 2011.
In 2016, Quirk managed to balance her studies and Rugby with
aplomb as she completed her Bachelor of Physiotherapy with Charles Sturt
University, including the completion of nearly a month’s practical work at
Alicia also learnt Portuguese in preparation for the Olympic
Games, where she played a key role in Australia’s Gold Medal win, and put her
physiotherapy skills to the test just last week as she looked after injured
teammate Brooke Anderson at the Dubai Rugby Sevens while the team physio was
occupied with another player.
The RUPA Awards Lunch, one of the highlights of the
Australian Rugby calendar, allows RUPA’s members to acknowledge the significant
achievements of their peers on and off the field.
With a who’s who of Australian Rugby in attendance among a
room of over 400 people including players, coaches, sponsors, media and other
stakeholders of the game, it is seen as the ideal way to celebrate and reflect
upon the Rugby season as the calendar year comes to a close.
Over 20 players from Australia’s five Super Rugby franchises
and the Australian Men’s and Women’s Rugby Sevens program who had been in
attendance at #RUPACamp in Coogee since Monday were also in attendance,
symbolising a crucial stage in welcoming them to the Australian Rugby family as
2016 RUPA-ASRU Scholarship winner Yirrbi Jaffer-Williams
performed the traditional acknowledgment to country, with the lunch hosted by
Fairfax Media’s Georgina Robinson, RUPA President Benn Robinson and Australian
Women’s Rugby Sevens star Tiana Penitani.
The Rugby Union Players’ Association was incorporated in
October 1995 in direct response to the professionalism of Rugby and was
established to promote and safeguard the interests of its members, namely the
professional Rugby players of Australia. Currently 100% of Australia’s full
time professional players are members of RUPA.
Full List of winners, 2016 RUPA Awards:
RUPA Medal For Excellence: Christian Leali’ifano (Brumbies)
Newcomer of the Year: Reece Hodge (Melbourne Rebels)
People’s Choice Wallaby of the Year: Michael Hooper
Men’s Rugby Sevens Players’ Player of the Year: Lewis
Women’s Rugby Sevens Players’ Player of the Year: Charlotte
Academic Achievement Award: Alicia Quirk (Australian Women’s
Community Service Award: Matt Hodgson (Western Force)
National Rugby Championship Players’ Player of the Year:
Jake Gordon (NSW Country Eagles)