Cape Town - World Rugby has revealed the shortlists for the men’s and women’s Sevens Players of the Year 2018 awards, which will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo on November 25.
The shortlists feature players from four nations, including three previous recipients of the prestigious award, with five of them having featured in the dream teams for the World Rugby Sevens Series 2018 or Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018.
The nominees for the World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year 2018 are: Perry Baker (USA), Ben O’Donnell (Australia) and Jerry Tuwai (Fiji).
The nominees for the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year 2018 are: Michaela Blyde (New Zealand), Sarah Goss (New Zealand) and Portia Woodman (New Zealand).
Both shortlists were selected by players, match officials and commentators on the men’s and women’s World Rugby Sevens Series and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018.
World Rugby men’s Sevens Player of the Year nominees:
Perry Baker (USA): The oldest of the nominees at 32 and the 2017 recipient of this prestigious award, Baker was at his scintillating best in Las Vegas in March, scoring eight tries - six of them in the knockout stages - as USA tasted success on home soil for the first time. The Eagles flyer has always had electric pace and the ability to create something out of nothing, but now has the all-round game to go with his natural speed to make him even more of a lethal finisher. The crowd favourite scored 37 tries in seven events on the 2018 series, missing the finale in Europe due to injury before returning to help USA to sixth place at RWC Sevens in San Francisco.
Ben O’Donnell (Australia): Australia’s O’Donnell enjoyed a debut season to remember on the series in 2018, scoring 32 tries across nine rounds – including two in the Sydney Sevens final as the hosts secured a first Cup title in six years. Nominated for the Rookie of the Year award, O’Donnell was the Impact Player on three occasions and runner-up for the series accolade. A powerful runner with the ability to come off both feet, the 23-year-old is a constant threat to opponents with his work-rate and hunger to get his hands on the ball making him a key figure for Australia.
Jerry Tuwai (Fiji): Fijian playmaker Tuwai earns a nomination for the second year running after once again carving open defences at will with his vision and step, making the most of his diminutive frame to dart through gaps to create opportunities for himself or those around him. The 29-year-old led Fiji to five titles on the 2018 series, including four in a row from Vancouver to London, and scored 25 tries along the way to also earn a place in the Dream Team for the series. Fiji missed out on the overall series title by two points to South Africa, had to settle for silver in the Commonwealth Games and then finished fourth at RWC Sevens, but Tuwai always plays with a smile on his face.
World Rugby women’s Sevens Player of the Year nominees:
Michaela Blyde (New Zealand): The youngest nominee at only 22, Blyde is in contention to win the award for the second year running after another impressive season with the Black Ferns Sevens that saw her named in the Dream Teams for both the series and RWC Sevens. The Impact Player of the Series for a second time in 2018, Blyde scored 37 tries across the five rounds - second only to team-mate Woodman - as New Zealand finished as runners-up after winning the Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris rounds. Blyde, blessed with electric pace and quick feet, scored another nine to help New Zealand claim back-to-back RWC Sevens titles in San Francisco, including a hat-trick in the final against France. The season also saw her win an historic gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
Sarah Goss (New Zealand): The inspirational captain of the Black Ferns Sevens for the last four years, Goss led her side to an historic gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in April, tournament victories in Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris and a successful defence of the RWC Sevens crown in a run of 27 consecutive wins. The 25-year-old, who started every match in the 2018 series, has a tireless work ethic which, combined with her dogged defence and vision, enables her to unlock defences for herself and her team-mates. Goss was named in the Dream Team for RWC Sevens in San Francisco after also receiving the UL Mark of Excellence as the best player in the tournament.
Portia Woodman (New Zealand): The only player to be named World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year in both sevens (2015) and 15s (2017), Woodman was at her devastating best in the 2018 series to finish as both the top try scorer and point scorer with 43 and 215 respectively across the five events. The former netballer may have moved into the forwards in sevens, but with her blistering pace, unbelievable footwork and power she remains a threat from anywhere on the pitch, leaving others in her wake to score herself or create opportunities for her team-mates. The 27-year-old’s displays inevitably earned her a place in the Dream Team for both the series and RWC Sevens.
World Rugby chairperson Bill Beaumont said: “Rugby sevens is a fan-favourite and this year we have enjoyed another incredible season of men’s and women’s World Rugby Sevens Series and of course a record-breaking RWC Sevens 2018 in San Francisco.
“These exceptional sevens athletes have been at the heart of the success story, inspiring a new generation of fans and players with their skill and athleticism. All are superb ambassadors for our sport and will play a huge part in the sevens success story for many seasons to come.”
These awards are two of 13 categories of awards, including the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Players of the Year, World Rugby Team of the Year, World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year and Award for Character.
Previous World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year award winners:
2017 – Perry Baker (USA)
2016 – Seabelo Senatla (South Africa)
2015 – Werner Kok (South Africa)
2014 – Samisoni Viriviri (Fiji)
2013 – Tim Mikkelson (New Zealand)
2012 – Tomasi Cama (New Zealand)
2011 – Cecil Afrika (South Africa)
2010 – Mikaele Pesamino (Samoa)
2009 – Ollie Phillips (England)
2008 – DJ Forbes (New Zealand)
2007 – Afeleke Pelenise (New Zealand)
2006 – Uale Mai (Samoa)
2005 – Orene Ai’i (New Zealand)
2004 – Simon Amor (England)
Previous World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year award winners:
2017 – Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
2016 – Charlotte Caslick (Australia)
2015 – Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
2014 – Emilee Cherry (Australia)
2013 – Kayla McAlister (New Zealand)