Michael Hooper has been named as the Waratahs Players’ Player of the Year for 2013, with Israel Folau picking up Best Back and Benn Robinson named Best Forward.
Hooper lifted the prestigious Matthew Burke Cup at the team’s annual Awards Dinner held tonight at Sydney’s Ivy and attended by key sponsors, stakeholders, members and Waratahs Rugby players and staff.
It is his second accolade in a matter of weeks, after the 21-year-old was recently named Australia’s Super Rugby Player of the Year for 2013 by the country’s leading media pundits.
Having made the most line breaks of any forward in competition, the most run metres of any Australian forward and the second most run metres of any forward overall, Hooper finished his first year with NSW with 298 votes.
In second place with 200 votes, Israel Folau picked up the award for Best Back, and also scooped the Members’ Choice Player of the Year, just hours after this morning announcing he had re-signed with NSW for a further two seasons.
In third place was last year’s Best Back, Adam Ashley-Cooper, who amassed a total of 171 votes, just four clear of fellow back Bernard Foley, who came in fourth.
The season’s Best Forward, Benn Robinson, came in fifth with 150 votes, whilst Sitaleki Timani, Peter Betham, Wycliff Palu, Kane Douglas and Paddy Ryan rounded out the top ten.
Voting is conducted after every Super Rugby match, with each player in the match day 22 submitted their votes on a 3-2-1 basis to determine the overall result.
Leading the voting throughout the season, Hooper had amassed a massive 153 votes in the first six matches, almost double the tally of second-placed Foley, who led Robinson and Ashley-Cooper by just 12 votes.
After Round 13 against the Stormers, Hooper’s advantage had been cut to just 29 points with the arrival in the top three of Folau, whose dominant performances against the Chiefs, Bulls and Kings saw him leap up four places after monopolising the voting in those rounds.
But after a try-scoring effort in the win over the Brumbies in round 14 and two further points’ hauls in the games that followed against the Rebels and Crusaders, Hooper’s lead was unassailable.
After a Wallaby-enforced absence against the Force, he returned with a man-of-the-match performance in the season-closing game against the Reds to close out an outstanding inaugural season in the sky blue.
Newcomer Will Skelton received the Chris Whitaker Aspiring Waratah Award, won last year by Bernard Foley, while Hooper also collected the prestigious Waratah Medal for on- and off-field excellence.
The 2013 Members’ Choice Player of the Year Award went to Folau, who received 37% of members’ votes, beating Adam Ashley-Cooper (15%), Bernard Foley (13%), Michael Hooper and Dave Dennis (6% each).
Folau was presented with his award by one of the members that voted for him, Neal Tui-tu’u, who also received a specially-commissioned Waratah bracelet and tie clip, designed exclusively by Waratahs Rugby partner Pendants Australia, who also created commemorative, personally engraved Waratahs sterling silver rings for all 2013 medal winners.
Seventeen NSW debutants were presented with their NSW caps after making their first state appearances for the HSBC Waratahs this season, while centurian Tatafu Polota Nau was honoured after becoming the seventh player to earn 100 state caps for NSW.
Also honoured were four players reaching the half-century through the course of the season: Dave Dennis, Sekope Kepu, Rob Horne and Kane Douglas.
Finally, the night also saw players pay tribute to retiring true blue Tom Carter, who will retire from professional rugby after 10 seasons and 84 state caps, as well as a number of other departing team-mates.
2013 Waratahs Award Winners
Matthew Burke Cup for Players’ Player of the Year – Michael Hooper
Best Forward – Benn Robinson
Best Back – Israel Folau
Members’ Choice Player of the Year Award – Israel Folau
Waratah Medal – Michael Hooper
Chris Whitaker Aspiring Waratah Medal – Will Skelton
2013 Matthew Burke Cup Standings
Michael Hooper 298
Israel Folau 200
Adam Ashley-Cooper 171
Bernard Foley 167
Benn Robinson 150
Sitaleki Timani 93
Peter Betham 80
Wycliff Palu 69
Kane Douglas 60
Paddy Ryan 58
2013 NSW debutants (round, NSW player number)
Israel Folau (Round 2 Reds, #1592)
Michael Hooper (Round 2 Reds, #1593)
Mitchell Chapman (Round 2 Reds #1594)
Ben Volavola (Round 2 Reds #1595)
Matt Lucas (Round 2 Reds #1596)
Greg Peterson (Round 3 Rebels, #1597)
Luke Holmes (Round 4 Brumbies, #1598)
Jed Holloway (Round 7 Force, # 1599)
Cam Crawford (Round 10 Chiefs, #1600)
Will Skelton (Round 13 v Stormers, #1601)
Ollie Atkins (Round 17 Force, #1602)
AJ Gilbert (Round 17 Force, #1603)
Liam Winton, (Round 17 Force, #1604)
Adam Coleman (Round 17 Force, #1605)
Richard Aho (Round 17 Force, # 1606)
Terrence Hepetema (Round 17 Force, #1607)
Sam Talakai (British & Irish Lions, #1608)