23 Oct 2009

Giteau named Australian rugby player of the year

11:29 am on 23 October 2009

Wallabies first-five Matt Giteau has received a timely tonic for recent woes, winning the John Eales Medal, Australian rugby's highest individual annual award.

Giteau became only the second back to win the honour in its eight-year history, replicating former Test fullback Chris Latham's success in 2006.

The star playmaker has admitted disappointment at being overlooked by coach Robbie Deans for the Wallabies vice-captaincy and is also believed to be under pressure to keep his prized number 10 jersey with new vice-captain Berrick Barnes in consideration.

Being voted the Wallabies best player of the past year by his teammates should be a handy boost for the 72-Test star's frame of mind heading into next week's Bledisloe Cup Test in Tokyo then the grand slam quest in Europe.

Giteau received 190 votes, well ahead of injured lock Nathan Sharpe who was second (162), while last year's winner George Smith (161) was third, ahead of form prop Benn Robinson (132) and utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper (106).

Notably Robinson, a favourite to take out the John Eales Medal, was rewarded for an outstanding season by being crowned Wallaby of the Year.

Unsurprisingly, Wallabies young gun James O'Connor was named Rookie of the Year following his meteoric rise to the Test ranks during last year's Spring Tour.

Adam Ashley Cooper, who provided the most exciting moment as the Wallabies struggled to a 1-5 record in the Tri-Nations, was awarded Try of the Year for his effort against the Springboks in Cape Town.

The 1991 World Cup winning captain Nick Farr-Jones was recognised for his services to the game with the Joe French Award.