Smith honoured with Rugby Medal of Excellence
December 14, 2007

Wallaby George Smith has capped off an outstanding year on and off the field by winning the The Rugby Medal for Excellence, as judged by the 132 professionals who make up the Rugby Union Players Association in Australia.

Smith spent 2007 extending his leadership talents by captaining the Brumbies on six occasions, taking his career Super 14 caps to a tally of 93. Smith also had the honour of captaining Australia in a convincing win over Canada in the World Cup and was also named vice captain for the Test against Italy in Rome.

In addition to taking out the RUPA Medal, Smith was named Australian Super 14 Player of the Series for the second consecutive year, and also collected his fifth consecutive Brumbies Players' Player award.

In winning this year, Smith dashed the chances of George Gregan collecting four Medals for Excellence, while other nominees were Nathan Sharpe - who was in line for his third Medal - and Queensland Red David Croft.

RUPA Chief Executive, Mr Tony Dempsey said that Smith's on field performance speaks for itself.

"Smith is highly regarded as one of the best openside flanker in the world; a master at the breakdown with the ball skills of an inside back," Dempsey said.

"He is also a brilliant ambassador for Australian rugby through his contribution to charity and to the Tongan community, of which he and his family are closely associated."

"The Medal for Excellence is unique in that it also recognises that sportspeople have a broader responsibility to the community than just playing sport, and I think this is presonifed with the work George Smith does off the rugby field."

"George plays a very active role as an ambassador for St Vincent de Paul Youth Reach, and who could forget the commitment he showed by shaving off his trademark dreadlocks to raise money for them?" he said."

"Another aspect of the Medal for Excellence recognises the work that players are doing to prepare for life after rugby, and George has shown through his ongoing study that he is looking to prepare himself for a fruitful life post-sport."

The Rugby Medal for Excellence is a true 'players' player' award, with all 132 Super 14 players - as RUPA members - eligible to vote annually on a 3-2-1 basis.

Each player is asked to vote for a fellow player who they believed excelled on and off the field in 2007 in areas of performance, leadership, consistency and discipline plus their contribution to charitable work, vocational skills and their commitment to the development of the game.

ARU Deputy CEO Matt Carroll said Smith's latest award was a clear reflection of his standing among his peers, both on and off the field.

"The Australian Rugby Union congratulates George Smith on winning RUPA's 2007 Rugby Medal for Excellence," Mr Carroll said.

"George is one of rugby's most respected players and has this year reinforced his position among the game's leaders in Australia including becoming the Wallabies 75th captain, against Canada at the World Cup."

"He is a consistent and unrelenting performer on the field and also continually gives back to the game and community at large, particularly Australia's youth."

Joining George Smith in the limelight today was the winner of the RUPA Newcomer of the Year award, David Pocock from the Western Force.

A ferocious open-side flanker with speed around the field and strong presence at the breakdown, David made a dynamic entry into Super 14 Rugby earlier this year. With maturity beyond his years, David made the transition from schoolboy superstar to Super 14 with ease.

Tony Dempsey said Pocock was a definite standout amongst the Newcomer nominees.

"David Pocock is an extremely focused individual with a very professional training approach and is widely predicted as a future Wallaby legend," he said.

In 2007, Pocock made 12 Super 14 appearances including six starts. He was also named in an expanded Wallaby squad and featured prominently for Australia A.

David is also an active sponsor of World Vision in Zimbabwe, his country of birth. David is currently developing his association with World Vision to become an ambassador.

"David Pocock is an outstanding young player who has had a tremendous impact in his first professional season," added Carroll.

"He was an Australian Schoolboy, a member of last year's world champion Under 19 team, and in 2007 has built a name for himself at the Super 14 and Australia A levels."

"David is also to be commended for his community work with World Vision."

RUPA 'Rugby Medal for Excellence' winners

2007 - George Smith
2006 - George Gregan
2005 - Nathan Sharpe
2004 - George Gregan
2003 - Brendan Cannon
2002 - Nathan Sharpe
2001 - George Gregan


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