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Sharpe wins Australia's top rugby honour

SYDNEY (AFP) –

Veteran Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe

Veteran Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe, pictured in 2011, has won Australian rugby’s top individual honour following an exceptional year that saw him twice postpone retirement and assume the national captaincy.

Veteran Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe has won Australian rugby’s top individual honour following an exceptional year that saw him twice postpone retirement and assume the national captaincy.

The 34-year-old received the John Eales Medal, the Wallabies Players’ Player award, on Thursday evening.

He is only the second person to win the medal twice behind openside flanker George Smith, the man he recently surpassed to become Australia’s most capped forward.

“It was very hard to lose the three previous captains in one hit,” Sharpe said, referring to injuries that sidelined James Horwill, David Pocock and Will Genia this season.

“I’ve just enjoyed it for what it is.”

Sharpe, who also won the medal in 2007, polled 259 votes from his peers over the course of the Wallabies’ last 19 Test matches stretching back to the 2011 World Cup, 24 ahead of nearest rival Pocock.

He added to ABC radio that being presented with the medal by Eales was the ultimate honour.

“He’s a guy that I cut my teeth under when I first started playing, so it’s tremendous to get it from him in my final year,” he said of the former Australian captain.

“I’ve learnt a lot from John over the years and will hopefully continue to do so.

“But probably more (importantly) to be recognised as a guy who puts in each week for his team-mates is something special.”

Michael Hooper was voted Rookie of the Year.

Sharpe will lead the Wallabies on their European Tour starting this month and then hang up his boots for good.

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