The stars came out to play on the 7th of February 2024 for the annual Rugby Awards held in Sydney to celebrate the top achievers and standout performers of the 2023 season.

Defender, a proud partner of the Wallabies and Australian rugby, has been an active and passionate supporter of global rugby for over two decades. They have a strong heritage in helping people discover rugby at all levels, from the grassroots to the elite.

The event saw several winners take the stage to accept their honours. Rob Valentini, a forward born and bred in Melbourne, was the 13th John Eales Medalist. He had a meteoric rise after being sidelined due to injury in his debut season, being dominant in the years to follow and winning the 2022 Super Rugby Player of the Year.

Eva Karani was named the Player of the Year for the Wallaroos after an impressive breakout season. With an appearance in all the Wallaroos Tests, the tight-head prop continued to showcase her talents with memorable performances. Karpani played a key role in a season that saw the Wallaroos secure the third spot in World Rugby’s inaugural WXV tournament.

Maddison Levi took home the Shawn Mackay Award for Women’s Sevens Player of the Year. She had an unstoppable 2022-2023 HSBC World Rugby Series season, scoring a record 57 tries that led to a World Rugby Player of the Year nomination. Levi was also named World Rugby Rookie of the Year and earned a coveted spot in the World Rugby Dream Team for two consecutive years.

Henry Paterson, the only Australian selected for the World Rugby 2022-2023 Men’s Sevens Dream Team, was awarded the Men’s Sevens winner on the night.

Other winners included Fraser McReight and Cecilia Smith from QLD Reds, who won the Super Rugby Pacific and Super W Player awards respectively. Clubmate Carys Dallinger scooped the Rookie of the Year in her first season for the Buildcorp Wallaroos. Teddy Wilson of the NSW Waratahs and Faitala Moleka from the ACT Brumbies were awarded Junior Players of the Year for their respective seasons in the Junior Wallabies and Wallaroos seasons.

Angus Gardner was named the FedEx Referee of the Year, while Jake Upfiled won the Cadbury Try of the Year.

Defender was proud to be in attendance, as all the winners and nominees represent strength, passion, integrity, and solidarity – values at the heart of Defender’s commitment to rugby.