George Smith eyes another Eales Medal - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

George Smith eyes another Eales Medal

By Jim Morton 22/10/2008 05:22:45 PM Comments (0)

Record-breaking flanker George Smith is in the mix to become the first Wallaby to win the John Eales Medal twice.

Smith, back-row partner Rocky Elsom and playmaker Matt Giteau loom as the favourites in an open field to win Australian rugby union's best and fairest award on Thursday night.

Likely rookie of the year Berrick Barnes is a dark horse for the main award, while captain Stirling Mortlock, No.8 Wycliff Palu and hooker Stephen Moore could also feature.

The medallist, to be announced in Sydney, is decided by the votes of the Wallabies themselves after each of the 14 Tests played since the 2007 World Cup.

With each Australian player awarding points on a 3-2-1 basis, the format rewards consistency as well as stand-out performances.

Smith and Giteau played the most Tests in the voting period, both missing just one match, when rested during the disappointing World Cup campaign in France.

Smith, the inaugural John Eales Medallist in 2002, became Australia's most capped forward this season when he eclipsed Eales' mark of 86.

The 92-Test stalwart enhanced his world-class reputation in 2008, making the No.7 jersey his own after a long positional tussle with Phil Waugh.

Waugh was only preferred at open-side flanker once this year, when Smith was benched for the Tri-Nations dead rubber in Johannesburg in August as South Africa romped to a record 53-8 victory.

History also dictates that forwards are favoured in the voting with pack-members winning five of the six previous medals, including last year when a consistent Nathan Sharpe took the prize.

In his first season as Australia's first-choice five-eighth, Giteau provided many of the highlights but also struggled for consistency as he stepped into Stephen Larkham's huge shoes.

Elsom started the voting period with a man-of-the-match three-try performance against Japan in Lyon and also starred during this year's Tri-Nations.

Backline linchpin Barnes was a revelation as Larkham's replacement in France last year and quickly developed into a key man at inside centre this season.

Fellow Queenslander Peter Hynes will challenge for the rookie of the year award after the late-bloomer turned his surprise selection on the wing into a masterstroke for coach Robbie Deans.

Like Hynes, rising lock James Horwill is unlikely to win the award despite being Australia's most consistent forward as he narrowly missed a berth in the 30-man World Cup squad.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2021 AAP

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