Wallabies star Michael Hooper has joined an exclusive group to claim the prestigious John Eales medal for the second time.
The 24-year-old easily scooped up the players’ player honour on Thursday night in Sydney, outpointing runner-up David Pocock by over 100 votes.
Hooper becomes just the fourth player to wear the medal twice in the 14-year history after Israel Folau, George Smith and Nathan Sharpe.
At 24 years of age, he is the youngest to win the gong a second time.
“I really appreciated the first one a couple of years after I got it and I think this one will actually be the same,” Hooper said at Randwick Racecourse.
“I hope I can keep playing and staying on the field. I’ve had a really good run being able to stay on the field. I’ve had a good run at it and I want to keep that trend up.”
The prize caps off a stellar year for the Wallabies’ vice-captain, who had been crowned Australia’s man-of-the-match in half of their six Tests on home soil.
He started in all but three of the Wallabies’ 18 Tests over the past year in a campaign that earned him high praise on Thursday from ARU boss Bill Pulver.
“Over the past 12 months, Michael has been consistently one of the most impressive players in the world,” he said.
“And this was never more evident than during last year’s World Cup when he combined masterfully with David Pocock to steer Australia to the final.”
However Hooper admitted he would trade all his personal accolades to reverse the result of last week’s stinging defeat to New Zealand in Auckland.
“I’d give all of these away to win that match last week,” he said.
“That was painful, tough to take. Wins are why you play. It’s the ultimate team game. We played a really good 60 minutes, just missed out on a little bit there.”
Dane Haylett-Petty was the Wallabies’ rookie of the year, Sean McMahon took out the Super Rugby player of the year gong and Ed Jenkins’ was the men’s sevens’ best.
Charlotte Caslick followed up her outstanding Olympic campaign with the women’s sevens player of the year, while Wallaroos captain Ash Hewson was the women’s player of the year.