The outstanding efforts of Queensland Reds scrumhalf Will Genia during the 2011 Super Rugby season has resulted in the Wallaby playmaker winning his second consecutive Pilecki Medal at the Reds Gala.
The Pilecki Medal is voted on a 3-2-1 basis by the players following each game with Genia polling 263 votes this season, ahead of Scott Higginbotham (217), Quade Cooper (206), Beau Robinson (191), Digby Ioane (158) and Ben Daley (145).
Genia's consistency throughout the year was impressive, receiving votes in each of the Reds 18 games, although it was standout efforts against the Stormers in round eight (45 votes), Crusaders in round 15 (39) and Crusaders in the Final (33) that were the catalyst behind the win.
The two highest individual round scores in Pilecki Medal voting went to Beau Robinson (57 votes) for his effort against the Cheetahs in round six; while fellow flank Liam Gill scored 53 in his run-on debut against the Chiefs in Round 18.
Genia last year became the 14th Queensland player to win the Pilecki Medal since it was introduced in 1992. Fullback Chris Latham has won the honour four times, while Genia joins John Eales, Jason Little and David Croft in winning twice.
"The Pilecki Medal is voted on by the group and is an important award for the players as they always value the opinion of their peers," head coach Ewen McKenzie said.
"We've become a fairly attack orientated team and Will is a playmaker in his own right. He touches the ball more than anyone and the award acknowledges the consistency and quality of his play over a long period.
"To see Scott finish in second is pleasing as he has consolidated on the improvements he made last year. In 2009 he started only a few games, last year he became a starter, and now he is both a starter and an influential player. That has been recognised by the Wallabies selectors and coming second to Will Genia is not dishonourable at all."
The People's Choice Award was voted on by the fans online and was presented by Michelle McInerney of Ashgrove, who was given the honour by taking part in the voting process.
Thousands of votes were polled at the Reds website and it was Quade Cooper who walked away with the Award, just pipping playmaking partner Genia and ahead of third-placed Digby Ioane.
In other award presentations Mike Harris was named Rookie of the Year; new Wallabies captain James Horwill collected the Spirit of the Reds; Ben Tapuai won the Most Improved; and David Glover was announced as Volunteer of the Year.
Harris excelled in his first year of Super Rugby, winning the Rookie of the Year on the back off some stifling defence and an accurate right boot, earning himself nine caps, six in the run on side, before a cruel injury in round 12 against the Rebels ended his season prematurely.
"It's an Award chosen by the coaches, and considering we used 36 players this season, it was inevitable that some younger guys would be asked to come in," McKenzie said.
"We tend to remember the efforts of those later in the year but in the core of the season Mike Harris stepped up playing at 12 and we saw his goal kicking and try scoring ability in big games. Before he was struck down by injury, he was front, right and centre."
The Spirit of the Reds Award, won by James Horwill, was voted on by McKenzie and awarded to the player he believed demonstrated the behaviour and attributes that are hallmarks of the Reds team culture.
"The Spirit of the Reds is an important Award for me because team culture is the glue. You can have lots of talented individuals but you need players who are constantly pulling it together and keeping the team part of it moving forward," McKenzie said.
"We've increased the number of guys who are contenders for the Award in 2011 but in the end James Horwill did a brilliant job, not just as Captain, but he does the right thing at the right time, all the time. He represents himself, the team and organisation constantly and it's impossible to find anyone in Queensland who has a bad word to say about him."
The newly introduced Most Improved Award, won by Ben Tapuai, was designed to identify the person who made strides both on and off the field, taking into account physical, attitudinal and skill improvements, along with their contribution to the fabric of the team.
"We like to acknowledge culture but it's also important to acknowledge improvement, not just as a footballer but as a person. We had a number of guys who made some enormous strides in their development and from a coaching and leadership perspective, you want to create a program that encourages improvement," McKenzie said.
"We asked all the staff who are associated with the players to vote, and when you go down the list of names, Ben Tapuai was at the top of most people's list."
Volunteers play an instrumental role to the success and growth of the Code each year and, despite a number of quality nominations, the Volunteer of the Year in 2011 was awarded to David Glover.
The Pilecki Medal is named after legendary prop Stan Pilecki, who played 122 times in the Queensland front row and who was on hand to present the Award to Genia.
2011 Pilecki Medal Votes – Top 10:
Will Genia – 263
Scott Higginbotham – 217
Quade Cooper – 206
Beau Robinson – 191
Digby Ioane – 158
Ben Daley – 145
James Horwill – 127
Anthony Faingaa – 116
Saia Faingaa – 104
Rod Davies – 94
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