Wallabies winger Nick Cummins has become the fourth straight Western Force winger to win RUPA’s Medal for Excellence.
Winger Nick Cummins has upstaged Wallabies superstar Israel Folau and John Eales Medallist Michael Hooper to claim the Rugby Union Players Association’s highest honour.
Cummins received the 2013 Medal for Excellence at RUPA’s annual awards in Sydney on Wednesday.
The medal recognises not only on-field performances but also an individual’s contribution to the community and their efforts in furthering their education.
Australian Super Rugby players voted on a three, two, one basis, with Cummins rewarded for his blistering spring tour form, charity work and perseverance after an injury-plagued domestic season.
Hooper, who was favoured to add the Medal for Excellence to his John Eales Medal and NSW and Australian Super Rugby player of the year awards, Folau and Brumbies and Wallabies playmaker Christian Lealiifano were the other three finalists.
But Cummins upstaged them all to become the fourth consecutive winner of the accolade from the Western Force, joining former teammates David Pocock (2010) and Nathan Sharpe (2011 and 2012) in receiving RUPA’s Medal for Excellence.
He also joins Wallabies all-time greats George Gregan and George Smith on the honour roll.
The 26-year-old winger only managed six games with the Force in the 2013 Super Rugby season before starring on the Wallabies’ European tour last month.
Cummins was named man of the match in the Wallabies’ first Test of the tour against England and backed up with a try-scoring double against Italy and another crucial five-pointer against Ireland in back-to-back weeks.
Off field, the man affectionately known as the Honey Badger also had a busy year.
The crowd favourite participated in numerous Western Force community events, particularly charity work with Ronald McDonald House.
While he missed out on the major award, Folau capped his spectacular entrance to rugby by being named RUPA’s Newcomer of the Year.
Folau’s latest gong comes a week after the Waratahs fullback was named the International Rugby Players Association’s International Newcomer of the Year following a dream debut season in the code.
The 24-year-old equalled fellow dual international Lote Tuqiri’s all-time record for most tries in a season by a Wallaby and was also named Australia’s Super Rugby rookie of the year.
Folau also picked up the People’s Choice Player of the Year for 2013 at Wednesday’s RUPA awards.
For the first time in the 13-year history of the awards, voting was turned over to the public to select who they felt was worthy of being named the player of the year.
Folau claimed the prize narrowly from Waratahs and Wallabies teammate Hooper and Queensland Reds and Test five-eighth Quade Cooper.