Samu Kerevi is back to defend his inaugural title, after he was shortlisted alongside seven other players for the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) Players’ Player Award, to be presented at the RUPA Awards next Wednesday, December 9th.
Kerevi is joined in the list of nominees by Brisbane City teammate Nick Frisby for the second straight season, with teammates Karmichael Hunt and Junior Laloifi also nominated.
The 2015 NRC runner up UC Vikings provide two nominations in back rowers Jarrad Butler and Ita Vaea, while fellow loose forward Jordy Reid (Melbourne Rising) and flyhalf Jono Lance (NSW Country Eagles) round out the nominees.
Jarrad Butler (UC Vikings): 10 NRC games, 45 points (9 tries)
UC Vikings Captain Butler continued to go from strength to strength in 2015, culminating in his selection in the Barbarians team, led by Michael Cheika, which faced off against Argentina at Twickenham just a few short weeks ago.
The Brumbies and Vikings Players’ Player in 2014, the combative flanker led the Vikings with aplomb as they recovered from a disappointing 2014 season where they failed to play finals to eliminate the Melbourne Rising and reach the 2015 NRC Grand Final, where they were narrowly defeated by Brisbane City.
Nick Frisby (Brisbane City): 10 NRC games, 20 points (4 tries)
Versatile half Nick Frisby is nominated for the second straight season as he played all ten games of Brisbane City’s successful title defence, showing off his ability to rise to the big occasion by scoring four tries including one in the Grand Final victory against the UC Vikings and two in the comeback Semi Final victory against the Sydney Stars
It was the second straight season in which Frisby played every game for his team, with the former Australian U20s representative looking to use the NRC as a springboard to the 2016 Super Rugby season, where he enters the campaign as the most experienced of the Reds’ young group of halves.
Karmichael Hunt (Brisbane City): 9 NRC games, 20 points (4 tries)
Karmichael Hunt’s first NRC campaign was an overwhelming success, as the former NRL and AFL star started out in the centres alongside Samu Kerevi before cementing his place at fullback for the champion Brisbane City outfit and proving a real leader among the young ‘City lineup.
Hunt’s outstanding cover defence helped weather the early UC Vikings’ surge in the Grand Final at Ballymore, while he showed his attacking prowess in two games in particular, against the Perth Spirit as he scored his first NRC try and then against the Greater Sydney Rams as he threw the final pass for three five-pointers.
Samu Kerevi (Brisbane City): 10 NRC games, 45 points (9 tries)
Last year’s winner of this Award went from strength to strength in 2015, showing remarkable consistency at both NRC and Super Rugby level as he was selected in the Wallabies’ training squad for The Rugby Championship.
The 22 year old centre scored nine tries, three times as many as he did in 2014, and created a wonderful midfield combination with former Australia U20s centre Henry Taefu. It was Kerevi’s try in the come-from-behind Semi Final victory against the Sydney Stars which galvanised his side and sparked their upturn in fortunes.
Junior Laloifi (Brisbane City): 10 NRC games, 70 points (14 tries)
Junior Laloifi’s second NRC campaign saw the lightning quick winger finish as the competition’s leading try scorer, averaging one more than per game as featured in every match of Brisbane City’s successful premiership defence.
Laloifi’s performances saw him named as the inaugural Ballymore Kid, a Queensland Rugby initiative in which one player within Queensland’s two NRC squads was guaranteed a 2016 contract with the Reds. Laloifi, who played for Australia in Rugby Sevens in 2012, was schooled at Lalor Secondary College in Melbourne, and represented the Rebels U18s Schoolboys before moving to Queensland and joining Sunnybank.
Jono Lance (NSW Country Eagles): 8 NRC games, 82 points (2 tries, 24 conversions)
2011 Super Rugby winner Lance shone in his first NRC campaign with the NSW Country Eagles after missing 2014 with injury, allowed to flourish in the flyhalf position which he will hope to make his own in Perth as he joins the Western Force in 2016.
Lance scored two tries for the Eagles as they narrowly missed out on a playoff spot, captaining the side and winning the NRC Player of the Year Award ahead of Jordy Reid and Ita Vaea, and a particular highlight was his performance against Sydney Stars in Tamworth where he scored 22 points (2 tries, 4 conversions) including a fine individual try, through a nifty chip, chase and regather effort which saw him cross in the corner.
Jordy Reid (Melbourne Rising): 9 NRC games, 15 points (3 tries)
Melbourne Rising back rower Reid missed the 2014 NRC in order to undergo shoulder surgery and be prepared for this year’s Super Rugby campaign with the Rebels.
It proved to be a wise choice, with Tony McGahan rewarding Reid with a two-year contract extension in Melbourne following a standout campaign, and the dreadlocked former Manly Marlins youngster took that form into the NRC. He was a shining light for the Rising on their way to a second straight Semi Final appearance, playing every game and scoring one of the late tries which helped them come from behind to defeat the Greater Sydney Rams in Morwell.
Jordy won the Melbourne Rising’s Players’ Player Award in late October.
Ita Vaea (UC Vikings): 9 NRC games, 30 points (6 tries)
Ita Vaea, the 2015 UC Vikings Players’ Player Award winner and Brumbies’ Players’ Player runner up, thoroughly enjoyed his first NRC campaign, the icing on top of a remarkable comeback campaign in 2015.
Prior to 2015, 26 year old Ita had spent two years out of the game after life-threatening blood clots were found on his heart, forcing him to not only cease playing contact sport but in fact stop exercising altogether. Ita scored five of his six tries at Viking Park, as the UC Vikings made it all the way to the 2015 NRC Grand Final.
The winner of the Buildcorp NRC Players’ Player Award, presented by Buildcorp, will be announced at the 2015 RUPA Awards on Wednesday December 9th.
It is voted on by fellow 2015 NRC players from all nine teams, and is presented to the nominee they believe to have been the best player in the competition in 2015.