Smith wins big at Reds awards
DRUM ROLL PLEASE: And the 2017 Pilecki Medal winner for players' player of the year goes to.... Reds flank George Smith.
The 37-year-old claimed the title following his first season back in Super Rugby since 2013. Voted on by his Reds’ teammates, Smith became Queensland Representative Number 1307 when he ran on in the side’s opening match of the season and went on to play in every match in 2017, starting at Number 7 in all but one.
Smith’s seamless return to Super Rugby was remarkable given his three-year absence from the competition.
Smith tallied 278 votes from his peers, beating teammates Scott Higginbotham (248) and Karmichael Hunt (198) for the coveted award.
Smith was unable to accept the award in person, announced at today’s sold out QRU Long Lunch, as he is currently playing for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan’s Top League – but said he was honoured to be voted the Reds’ best player in 2017.
"I’m extremely humbled to receive the Pilecki Medal. Knowing the history of Stan and those that have won the award previously, it’s a really proud moment for me," he said.
"There’ve been some outstanding performances this year from numerous players within our team, so to receive this accolade from my peers makes it even more special,"
Legendary Queensland prop Stan Pilecki, the state’s first centurion, who the award was named after, said: "I think he’s a great choice because he comes from both schools, the old school and the new school and I think the new school have learnt a lot from him. Great choice,"
The accolade is one of many throughout a remarkable 18-year career, in which Smith has also claimed the Brett Robinson Medal for Brumbies players’ player an incredible 10 times in 12 seasons, as well as the John Eales Medal for Wallabies players’ player in 2002 and 2008.
Fellow Reds’ openside flank Michael Gunn was also recognised at the QRU Long Lunch for winning the Alec Evans Medal for Queensland Premier Rugby Player of the Year, based on his standout performances for Easts throughout the year.
Easts ultimately fell short of the Queensland Premier Rugby finals but Gunn’s energy never wavered. The Alec Evans is his third piece of Queensland Premier Rugby silverware after claiming the Hospital Cup and Tony Shaw Medal for player of the grand final in 2013.
The event featured a series of panellists including Australia’s Rugby World Cup-winning coach Rod Macqueen, Wallabies World Cup-winners Nick Farr-Jones, Anthony Herbert and Peter Slattery, former Wallabies and Queensland representatives Tony Shaw and Sam Cordingley, former All Black Jeff Wilson, Crusaders’ 2017 Super Rugby-winning head coach Scott Robertson, as well as current Reds and Wallabies representative Stephen Moore and current Australian Women’s player Shannon Parry.