Wallabies fullback Israel Folau has added to an already bulging portfolio of accolades and awards by becoming the first player to win the John Eales Medal in successive years.
NSW Waratahs star Folau polled 138 votes on Thursday evening to beat two flankers, the Brumbies’ David Pocock (113) and NSW’s Michael Hooper (108).
NSW utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper (98) and Western Force back-rower Ben McCalman (95) rounded out the top five.
Folau, only in his third year of playing rugby after time in the NRL and AFL, is just the third player to win the medal twice after flanker George Smith (2002, 2008) and lock Nathan Sharpe (2007, 2012).
The medal is voted for by the Wallabies’ match-day squad on a 3-2-1 basis after each Test match.
The voting period for this year’s medal took in the Tests from the 2014 spring tour to the second Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand earlier this month.
The three-code footballer recently signed a new three-year deal with the Australian Rugby Union and the Waratahs.
Folau received the medal at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse just two days before the Wallabies leave Australia for a Test against the United States in Chicago on September 5, which will be their final hitout before the World Cup starts later that month in Britain.
He also picked up the award for Super Rugby try of the year after being deemed most responsible for Tolu Latu’s match-winning round-six five-pointer against the Brumbies.
Pocock, Hooper and fellow back-rower Sean McMahon were among other winners on the night.
Hooper won Australia’s choice for Wallaby of the year for a third straight year after polling the highest fan vote on the Rugby.com.au website.
Pocock capped off a successful return from back-to-back season-ending knee injuries by winning the Australian Super Rugby player of the year award.
Melbourne Rebels star McMahon followed up his haul of three awards last year by being named Wallabies rookie of the year.
The Waratahs and their coach Michael Cheika were named Australian Super Rugby team and coach of the year respectively after they earned a second straight Australian conference title.
“It’s a huge privilege for me to get this award,” Folau said.
“What’s most rewarding for me is being recognised by my teammates – it’s a huge thing for me.
“I feel pretty lucky to get the award because there’s definitely guys within the squad who I personally think deserve this.”
Asked what parts of his game had improved since his medal win last year, Folau said: “I think probably trying to be a bit more consistent in the way that I’m playing and injecting myself in the game at the right time.
“This season, I haven’t scored as many tries and a lot of people have been talking about I haven’t been playing as good.
“But, for me, I’m really worried about just doing my job and I was really happy with the way things turned out regardless of how many tries I scored this year.
“For me, it’s not about that – it’s about playing consistent rugby and making sure I’m doing my role for the team.”