Wallabies wrecking ball awarded John Eales Medal
Rob Valetini – the Wallabies number eight, who played every Test in 2023 under Eddie Jones – has been crowned the 13th John Eales Medal.
The 25-year-old capped another consistent year by edging out Angus Bell and two-time John Eales Medallist Marika Koroibete to claim Australian rugby men’s top individual prize.
The individual accolade continued the back-rower’s rise to the top of Australian rugby and came one year after being voted the country’s best performer in Super Rugby.
Now, he has gone one better.
Thundering in contact, Valetini’s physicality was on display all season, including in the Wallabies’ final World Cup pool fixture against Portugal, where the Brumbies forward claimed the man of the match.
Valetini took out the award at a Black-Tie event in Darling Harbour, which bookended last year’s calamity on the field where the Wallabies missed the World Cup knockout stage for the first time under Jones.
But the team’s poor showing, where they claimed just two of nine Tests, didn’t tell the whole story.
Although Joe Schmidt has been left to pick up the pieces, once he gets to grips with the lay of the land he will be pleasantly relieved to find there are several green shoots.
There was too much change in 2023 from personnel to tactics, and with a questionable coaching team lacking rugby experience, the youthful Wallabies side struggled.
But with some important players to return, including Allan Alaalatoa and Len Ikitau, order should return for the Wallabies.
Meanwhile, tight-head prop Eva Karpani took out the Wallaroos’ player of the year.
The 27-year-old stood up when it counted across the ditch to lead the Wallaroos to important, confidence-building victories over France and Wales to finish 2023 on a high.
Karpani edged out on makeshift back-rower Ash Marsters and last year’s winner Georgina Friedrichs.
Henry Paterson took out the Shawn Mackay Men’s Sevens Award, while tryscoring machine Maddison Levi, who was also nominated for World Rugby’s sevens player of the year, took out the women’s award.
In other notable awards, Reds loose-forward Fraser McReight took out the Super Rugby player of the year and female counterpart Cecilia Smith took out the Super W award.
John Eales Medal – Final Points:
1. Rob Valetini – 141 pts
2. Angus Bell – 132
3. Marika Koroibete – 116
Buildcorp Wallaroos Player of the Year – Final Points:
1. Eva Karpani – 146 pts
2. Ashley Marsters – 140
3. Georgina Friedrichs – 118
2023 Rugby Australia Awards – Full list:
John Eales Medal – Rob Valetini
Buildcorp Wallaroos Player of the Year – Eva Karpani
Shawn Mackay Award for Men’s Sevens Player of the Year – Henry Paterson
Shawn Mackay Award for Women’s Sevens Player of the Year – Maddison Levi
Harvey Norman Super Rugby Player of the Year – Fraser McReight, QLD Reds
Buildcorp Super W Player of the Year – Cecilia Smith, QLD Reds
RA Rookie of the Year Award – Carys Dallinger, Wallaroos
RA Junior Men’s Player of the Year (U20) – Teddy Wilson
RA Junior Women’s Player of the Year (U20) – Faitala Moleka
Cadbury Try of the Year – Jake Upfield, QLD Reds vs Highlanders
FEDEX Referee of the Year – Angus Gardner
Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award – Bernard Tuaimau, Sydney Junior Rugby Union, AND Nathan Maiava, Melton Rugby Club
Joe French Award for Outstanding Contribution to Rugby – Tim Gavin, Eastern Suburbs and New South Wales
Geoff ‘Bunter’ Shaw Community Coach of the Year Award – Michael Crank, Mount Maria College
Andrew Cole Community Match Official of the Year – Anthony Furey, Central Coast Rugby Union Referees