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Rob Valetini claims first John Eales Medal

Wallabies number eight Rob Valetini claimed his first John Eales Medal on Wednesday.

Voted by the players after each game, Valetini, the younger sibling of Fijian Drua fly-half Kemu, was one of the most consistent players in World Rugby in 2023.

The Brumbies backrower polled 141 votes to finish ahead of Angus Bell (132) and Marika Koroibete (116).

“It means a lot,” Valetini said to reporters.

“It was disappointing results last year but winning this award means a lot, even if it was a little bittersweet.”

Bell finished in spectacular form after missing the opening game against South Africa whilst Koroibete was at his consistent best.

However, Valetini was influential across the year, playing nearly every minute for the Wallabies and starting at number eight in all nine games.

This included a debut World Cup appearance in France against Georgia, leading the team for carries (41) and third for tackles (36) in their four games at the tournament.

The 25-year-old joins a legendary list of backrowers to win the award, including four-time winner Michael Hooper, David Pocock, George Smith and David Lyons.

“It’s crazy because I used to watch all those players when I was growing up,” he reflects.

“To play alongside the likes of ‘Poey’ and ‘Hoops’, it’s surreal. Truly honoured to join them.”

Valetini was a narrow runner-up to Koroibete in 2022, finishing 32 votes behind the winger.

It continues Valetini’s remarkable rise, having made his debut just before the 2019 World Cup against Samoa.

Since then, the Melbourne-born Valetini has been one of Australia’s best, featuring in 39 Tests for the Wallabies.

He also helped the Brumbies to the 2020 Super Rugby AU title, coming off the bench to secure the 28-23 win over the Queensland Reds.

Reginald Chandar
Reginald Chandar
Head of News & Sports | news@fijilive.com

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