Waugh wins John Eales Medal
September 5, 2003

Wallaby flanker Phil Waugh has been awarded the John Eales Medal as Australia's Player of the Year.

The triumph caps a remarkable recovery for the Waratahs' star after he was ruled out of the entire 2002 season with an ankle injury.

Waugh was voted players' player by his Australian team-mates and presented with the medal by 1999 World Cup-winning captain John Eales at a gala function at the Star City Casino.

The award was voted on a 3-2-1 basis by each of the Australian 22 after the four Tests of that tour, as well as the seven Tests so far this year.

Despite missing those Tests in Argentina and Europe, the NSW flanker still polled 169 votes to edge injured No.8 Toutai Kefu by one vote.

Newly-appointed vice captain Elton Flatley, who will replace Kefu in the role during the upcoming World Cup, was third with 113.

Skipper George Gregan and last year's inaugural winner, flanker George Smith tied for fourth on 102.

Waugh has made the Wallaby openside flanker jersey whis own since stepping in when incumbent Smith suffered an injury against Ireland in June, which ruled him out of the next two Tests.

The 23-year-old took advantage of his ACT rival's absence to cement himself in the role, and Australian coach Eddie Jones opted to play Smith at blindside flanker upon his return.

In other awards tonight, rugby league convert, winger Lote Tuqiri was presented with the Rookie of the Year award by last year's winner Nathan Sharpe.

Try of the Year went to Mat Rogers, who made the most significant contribution to the try scored by Matthew Burke against the All Blacks at Telstra Stadium this year.

Tests caps were also presented to Australian players from the 1980s, a practice that stopped during the mid-1930s for around 66 years.

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