David Pocock’s emergence as one of the most influential rugby players in the world has earned him the title of Australian sports personality of 2015.
The Wallabies and Brumbies back-rower was bestowed the honour, voted by the public, at the AIS Sport Performance Awards (ASPA) on Wednesday night in Sydney.
Pocock’s outstanding feats helped put Australia within reach of the World Cup title last year, after what was a remarkable Super Rugby season with the Brumbies.
It followed two years of pain and intense rehabilitation on serious knee injuries.
“It felt like a long time on the sidelines,” Pocock said after thanking his family, friends, teammates and support staff in a video message.
“It was a really enjoyable year last year and I had a lot of support from a number of people after a couple of years out.
“The goal was just to enjoy it and just to seek those little improvements every week and I think I did that. I think that was key for me.”
Pocock is off contract at the end of the season but is yet to announce his next move.
There’s speculation he could take a year off in 2017 to study in the UK.
The 27-year-old is widely admired for his work off the field, which he admits is a “bit of a juggling act” but essential.
“It gives you a bit of a different headspace and a bit of time away from the game, which is really important to have that freshness and enjoyment when you do get down to training and playing,” he said.
Golfer Jason Day was awarded male athlete of the year after claiming his first major win at the 2015 US PGA Championship and elevation to world No.1.
A dominant year in the pool earned swimmer Emily Seebohm the honour of female athlete of the year, while the Australian women’s netball team took out the publicly voted team of 2015.
The Diamonds, who won a third consecutive netball World Cup, also shared the team of the year award as chosen by an AIS panel of judges, alongside the Australian women’s cycling team pursuit who crushed the world record by almost three seconds at the 2015 track world championships.
Jockey Michelle Payne’s historic Melbourne Cup victory was voted the best sporting moment of 2015, with US basketball college star and NBA prospect Ben Simmons named emerging athlete of the year.
“These awards are a reminder that our Australian athletes are in fine form, especially approaching the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games,” AIS director Matt Faviar said.
AIS SPORTS PERFORMANCE AWARDS:
* David Pocock (sports personality of the year) – public vote
* Australian Diamonds (team of the year) – public vote
* Jason Day (male athlete of the year)
* Emily Seebohm (female athlete of the year)
* Australian Diamonds, women’s cycling team pursuit (team of the year)
* Michelle Payne (sporting moment of the year) – media vote
* Ben Simmons (emerging athlete of the year)
* Alistair Donohoe (para performance of the year)
* Michael Bohl (coach of the year)
* Mark Anderson (leadership award)