Koroibete in mix to join exclusive club as Rugby Australia prepares for night of nights
Marika Koroibete is in the mix to join an exclusive club of three-time John Eales Medallists at the Rugby Australia Awards in Sydney on Wednesday night.
The reigning John Eales Medal holder was named as one of five nominees for the prodigious award earlier in the week.
The 31-year-old, who scored the first try of the year for the Wallabies last year against the Springboks in Pretoria, was included alongside fellow winger Mark Nawaqanitawase, as well as forwards Angus Bell, Will Skelton and Rob Valetini.
Should Koroibete win the medal, he will join Michael Hooper and Israel Folau in claiming the award three times, having also been awarded Australia’s best player during their run to the World Cup quarter-finals in 2019.
Koroibete’s future in the gold jersey remains unclear.
Although Test teammate Pone Fa’amausili claimed Koroibete had told teammates last year’s World Cup campaign would be his last, it’s understood the Japan-based winger is open to running out in gold again.
Nawaqanitawase’s inclusion is no surprise after a flying start to last year’s Rugby Championship, where he looked like he had won a Test against Los Pumas with a late coast-to-coast intercept. He then threatened with every touch of the ball against the All Blacks a week later in Melbourne.
Bell, too, made his mark during The Rugby Championship, where he reminded Waratahs fans how big a loss he was earlier in the year after suffering a toe injury. But the front-row forward made a statement off the bench against Los Pumas, before being his side’s best a week later in the Bledisloe Cup.
Skelton, who went to France as his side’s World Cup campaign, grew throughout the campaign but, having enjoyed his best performance against Georgia, suffered a shattering injury at training that ruled him out of the rest of the Wallabies’ tournament.
Valetini, meanwhile, was again one of the Wallabies’ most consistent players and regularly got the side over the gain line.
The Rugby Australia Awards night comes weeks after the appointment of Joe Schmidt as the Wallabies’ new coach.
Schmidt isn’t expected to be in attendance.
His arrival comes months after Eddie Jones finished up after one season, having presided over the Wallabies’ worst World Cup campaign.
The Black Tie event also comes weeks before Stan’s three-part series on the Wallabies is premiered.
Although Jones last week said he wouldn’t watch the documentary, the current Wallabies playing group said they were interested in the show.
“I have a lot of respect for Eddie and what he’s done in the past. I got along really well with Eddie, and I felt like he got the best out of me,” Bell told The Roar.
“I enjoyed my time with Eddie but now it’s time to move on and hopefully get some good performances with Joe.”
Will he watch the show?
“Yes,” Bell said.
“A little bit,” he continued. “Hopefully it gives people an insight into how hard we trained and what we do day-to-day.”
Nawaqanitawase added: “I loved Eddie. Things didn’t work out, but I can tell you now, he tried his hardest. Everyone has their opinions on him, but I played and he was good to me and he gave me a lot of confidence, and that’s what you want from a coach. I enjoyed every moment with him.
“I saw the trailer for it the other day. It’s quite exciting. What I’ll be intrigued by is, obviously, I was in the camp and I know what it’s like and I’d love to see how it was portrayed.”
Meanwhile, reigning Wallaroos player of the year Georgina Friedrichs was once again named.
The outside centre was selected alongside back-rowers Emily Chancellor and Ash Marsters, while winger Maya Stewart was also selected.
But perhaps Friedrichs’ biggest challenger for the award will be tight-head prop Eva Karpani, who finished the season in stunning form that included tries against France and Wales.
Maddison Levi is favoured to take out the Shaun McKay women’s sevens medal, with Charlotte Caslick and Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea also in the reckoning.
On the men’s side of things, Dietrich Roache was nominated alongside the hard-working pair Henry Paterson and Nathan Lawson.
RUGBY AUSTRALIA AWARDS NOMINEES
John Eales Medal: Angus Bell, Marika Koroibete, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Will Skelton, Rob Valetini
Wallaroos player of the year: Emily Chancellor, Georgina Friedrichs, Eva Karpani, Ash Marsters, Maya Stewart
Shaun McKay Medals
Women’s sevens: Charlotte Caslick, Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea, Maddison Levi
Men’s sevens: Nathan Lawson, Henry Paterson, Dietrich Roache