Dominant backrower Amanaki Mafi has been named the 2017 Melbourne Rebels Players’ Player at the club’s end of season function on Wednesday afternoon.
The honour caps off a remarkable debut Super Rugby season for the Japanese international who finished the year as one of the league’s most prolific forwards.
Mafi, the fifth consecutive backrower to win the award, polled the most votes from his peers to claim the Players’ Player award, finishing ahead of Colby Fainga’a, Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge and Tom English.
The 27-year-old led the league for runs (184) and ranked first for forwards in the competition for run metres (1378m), offloads (30) and second for tackle busts (48). He also led the Rebels for minutes played (1145), line breaks and pilfers.
Mafi was one of just three Rebels to appear in all 15 games and the only player to poll votes in every round this season.
The Player’s Player award, voted on by all matchday 23 players after every game, has been claimed by a back rower for a fifth straight year after McMahon (2016, 2015), Fainga’a (2014) and Higginbotham (2013).
Tom English was the recipient of the Spirit of Weary Dunlop award, chosen by Rebels coaching staff, for who best exemplifies the club’s values of defending the line against all odds, never giving in, being a great team person and battling the hard moments on the field.
Fereti Sa’aga was crowned the Rebels 2017 Rookie of the Year after a consistent debut Super Rugby season.
The honour is the first Rebels major award in the club’s history to be claimed by a home-grown Victorian player.
Sa’aga made 12 appearances in his maiden Super Rugby season following his debut in the second round against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
The Melbourne-born prop was rewarded for his continued development and consistency with a two-year contract extension.
Koroibete was honoured with the 2017 Rebels Try of the Year after he finished a well-worked team try against the Crusaders in Round 14 at AAMI Park.
Reece Hodge and Tom English combined inside their own 22 before they put Amanaki Mafi down the left wing who beat a defender and found Koroibete in support to score untouched under the posts.
Koroibete finished the season as the club’s leading try scorer with six in his debut Super Rugby season following his conversion from Rugby League.
The afternoon function was an opportunity to recognise and farewell departing players, including Mitch Inman (Oyonnax, France), Ben Meehan (London Irish, UK), Jonah Placid (Toulon, France) and head coach Tony McGahan.
The lunch function, which included players, coaches and staff, wrapped up the 2017 Super Rugby season before the players depart on annual leave. The squad will return to training in August with the Melbourne Rising ahead of the 2017 National Rugby Championship.
2017 Rebels Award Winners
Rebels Players’ Player Award – Amanaki Mafi
Rebels Spirit of Weary Dunlop Award – Tom English
Rebels Rookie of the Year – Fereti Sa’aga
Try of the Year – Marika Koroibete