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Sharpe wins 2007 John Eales Medal

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Wallabies and Western Force lock Nathan Sharpe has won Australian Test Rugby’s most prestigious award, polling 170 votes from his Wallaby team-mates to take out the 2007 John Eales Medal.

Twenty-nine-year-old Sharpe placed second in the John Eales Medal voting in 2006, only to go one better this year, ahead of fellow forwards Wycliff Palu (134 votes) and Guy Shepherdson (131 votes), who polled second and third, respectively.

He started in all four of the Wallabies’ 2006 Spring Tour Tests and then six of the Wallabies seven winter Tests this year, missing only the third Test, against Fiji in Perth.

The 3-2-1 votes that determine the John Eales Medallist were taken from the Wallaby 22 after every Test match of last year’s Spring Tour and this year’s Bundaberg Rum Rugby Series.

Sharpe is the fifth forward to win Australian Rugby’s top honour and joins Chris Latham (the only back to have won the Award), Jeremy Paul (hooker), David Lyons (No.8), Phil Waugh (flank) and George Smith (flank) as John Eales Medallists.

John Eales awarded the Medal to Sharpe at a black tie dinner at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on Monday night.

The Joe French Award, which recognises outstanding service to the Australian Rugby Union, was awarded to Leo Williams AO, a former Chairman of the Australian Rugby Union and past President of the Queensland Rugby Union.

A former Queensland Reds player (1962-1965) and team manager (1971-1972), Leo Williams followed in the footsteps of the late Joe French and was President of the Queensland Rugby Union from 1988 to 1995, one of the Union’s most successful periods.

He was elected to the ARU Board in 1993, as Deputy Chairman, and went on to become Chairman from 1994 to 1996, before serving as Chairman of Rugby World Cup Ltd from 1995 to 2000.

He also held administrative and coaching positions at the University Club in Queensland, as is well known for his close affinity and rapport with the players and officials he worked with at the national, state and club level of the game.

The 2007 Rookie of the Year, judged by Wallabies head coach John Connolly, and his management team, was awarded to full-back Julian Huxley, who became Australia’s 816th Test rugby player when he ran out in the Wallaby No.15 jersey in the 2007 season opener against Wales.

The oldest of the four debutants to have won Wallaby Test honours since the beginning of the 2006 Spring Tour, Huxley played in six Wallabies Tests this year, scoring two tries in his inaugural season.

The 2007 Try of the Year was awarded by the Fox Sports commentary team to Stirling Mortlock for his hand in a superb try against the All Blacks at the MCG that sealed the match for the Wallabies and brought the home team its first win against New Zealand since 2004.

When All Blacks kicker Dan Carter missed a penalty-goal attempt with just 10 minutes remaining, Mortlock responded by going quickly on the attack, side-stepping and breaking tackles as he ran 50 metres down the middle of the field, before getting the ball over the last of the defenders to replacement back Scott Staniforth, who scored right under the posts.

The inaugural National Volunteer of the Year Award, introduced this year to formally recognise the volunteers who have contributed to the development, promotion and/or advancement of Rugby Union in Australia, was won by Harold Shand from Queensland.

Each State and Territory Union nominated one Community Rugby volunteer, from which the 2007 National Volunteer of the Year was chosen. The nominees were judged by their significant contribution to Rugby; innovation and leadership; demonstration of Community Rugby participation; meeting an identified Community Rugby need; meeting an identified region, zone, state or national Rugby need; contribution of best practice principles and contribution to Rugby within their State or T

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