Folau wins record third Eales medal
ISRAEL Folau has created new history, winning the John Eales Medal as Australia's best rugby player for an unprecedented third time.
And one of his closest friends, Wallabies teammate Sekope Kepu, says there is no chance the triple-code star will ever return to the NRL.
After breaking the record this year for most tries in a calendar year by a Wallaby (12), Folau romped home to his third medal win, beating closest rival Kurtley Beale by nearly 100 votes.
No Wallabies player has ever won three Eales medals, yet Folau has achieved that feat within just five years of joining the code.
There is endless speculation that Folau will one day return to the NRL, where he established himself as a genuine superstar before a stint in the AFL, but Kepu says that is unlikely to happen despite the fullback's many achievement's in rugby.
"I've never been that worried about him returning to rugby league," Kepu wrote in a column for the RUPA website.
"We have had a few discussions about it, and every time I see something pop up in the newspapers I have a chat with him and ask what's going on, and how he's feeling.
"I believe that he is really enjoying rugby and the blessings that the game has given to him on and off the field, such as the travel and the relationships. I'm 99 per cent sure he won't be going back to rugby league."
The Eales medal is voted on a 3-2-1 system by fellow Wallabies players after each Test starting from the start of last year's spring tour.
In the final tally, Folau received an overwhelming 260 votes, beating Beale, who remarkably polled 166 votes despite only playing seven games since August.
Next were Bernard Foley (146), Michael Hooper (142), Sean McMahon (1129), Tevita Kuridrani (111), David Pocock (107), Reece Hodge (91), Dane Haylett-Petty (86) and rookie Jack Dempsey (76).
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said Folau still had much to achieve in the game.
"Israel's form this year has been electric and once again he proved what an incredible asset he is to this Wallabies team,' Pulver said.
"To have a third John Eales Medal around his neck after only five years in professional rugby is an extraordinary achievement and at just 28, he's got plenty left to achieve in rugby."
NSW flanker Ned Hanigan won the rookie of the year award after making his Test debut in June.
Chloe Dalton won the Aussie sevens women's player of the year.
"Chloe Dalton is a wonderful all-round talent on the rugby field and she has grown significantly as a leader of our women's Sevens team over the past 12 months," Pulver said.
Veteran James Stannard won the men's sevens player of the year, while Hilisha Samoa won Australia's women's XVs player of the year.
JOHN EALES MEDAL WINNERS
2017: Israel Folau
2016: Michael Hooper
2015: Israel Folau
2014: Israel Folau
2013: Michael Hooper
2012: Nathan Sharpe
2011: Kurtley Beale
2010: David Pocock
2009: Matt Giteau
2008: George Smith
2007: Nathan Sharpe
2006: Chris Latham
2005: Jeremy Paul
2004: David Lyons
2003: Phil Waugh
2002: George Smith
2017 Rugby Australia Awards
Wallabies Hall of Fame inductees: David Brockhoff & Greg Cornelsen
HSBC Volunteer of the Year: Peter Kurtz
Roger Vanderfield Award TNT Referee of the Year: Angus Gardner
Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby: Warringah Rugby Club/The Ward Family
Australia U20s Player of the Year: Liam Wright
Joe French Award: Kevin Crowe OAM
Geoff "Bunter" Shaw Community Coach of the Year: Alana Thomas
Rugby Australia Rookie of the Year: Ned Hanigan
Rugby Australia Try of the Year: Joe Powell (Brumbies) v Hurricanes (Round 9)
Vodafone Super Rugby Player of the Year: Amanaki Mafi, Melbourne Rebels
Australia's Choice - Qantas Wallaby of the Year: Michael Hooper
Women's XV Player of the Year: Hilisha Samoa
The Shawn Mackay Award Qantas Men's Sevens Player of the Year: James Stannard
The Shawn Mackay Award Qantas Women's Sevens Player of the Year: Chloe Dalton OAM
John Eales Medal: Israel Folau