Surprised Kerevi crowned Queensland Reds’ best
POWERFUL running centre Samu Kerevi has been honoured with the Pilecki Medal as player of the year for the Queensland Reds despite missing the final two games of the season.
Kerevi's strong, consistent season got him 191 votes - enough of a buffer to hold off Taniela Tupou (152) and fast-finishing Jono Lance (151).
The award put a broad smile on the face of the popular Kerevi, who is in the early stages of recovery from surgery for a ruptured bicep that has ruled him out of all rugby until October.
Kerevi still had his left arm in a sling on Wednesday when accepting the Pilecki Medal, as voted by his fellow players, at a team lunch at Brisbane's XXXX Brewery and Ale House.
"It's definitely a blessing and a massive honour to receive the Pilecki Medal," Kerevi said.
"I was a bit surprised but I'm honoured to receive the award from the group - it's an important one to us as Queenslanders.
"It's great to see so many young guys come through this year. We have a lot of potential in the group so we need to make strides forward in 2019."
In an admirable move, the medal gathering was held so soon after the Super Rugby regular season to include the departing George Smith (Bristol), Lance (Worcester), Ben Lucas (Grenoble), Kane Douglas (Bordeaux) and Eto Nabuli (Bordeaux) before they fly off to overseas clubs.
Kerevi polled 191 votes across 14 games and his stats back up the influence all his teammates felt around him.
He featured in the top 10 of the competition for runs (146), run metres (1187) and tackle busts (63).
The eye-catching vote gatherer was again the remarkable George Smith.
Last year's Pilecki Medal-winner tallied 148 votes but played just seven games because of a late start to the season after back surgery, and the decision to rest his twisted knee in the final game.
The medal is named after legendary Queensland prop Stan Pilecki, the state's first 100-game club member, who sadly passed away late last year.
Also recognised at the Reds' end-of-season lunch were 12 debutants, two 50-cap milestones (Kerevi and Chris Feauai-Sautia), the 100 Super Rugby games of Douglas and the contributions of all departing players.
Jordan Petaia was named Rookie of the Year after his eye-catching progress at wing and outside centre following his debut at just 18.
Halfback James Tuttle was recognised as best displaying the spirit of the Reds, a nod to how well he handled his change in fortunes and kept working.
He was the team's frontline halfback for five games before being overlooked for the second half of the season.
Reds coach Brad Thorn said: "It's great to be able to cap off our season with a team lunch, recognising the contributions made by a number of players across the year.
"To be voted by your peers as the best player is fantastic recognition for Samu Kerevi.
"He is a passionate Queenslander who gives everything for the jersey. The acknowledgement of your teammates is the greatest honour a player can have.
"As a former prop, we know Stan loved it when forwards won the award, but he certainly appreciated the way Samu approaches the game, with passion and physicality.
"This is the first time Stan hasn't been around to present the award, but his name lives on and he will always be remembered as the larger-than-life character who gave so much to Queensland Rugby.
"We were really impressed with Jordan Petaia in his first season of Super Rugby.
"He started training with the squad in pre-season when he was still 17 and he has taken everything in his stride since his debut as the youngest-ever Reds player in Super Rugby.
"James Tuttle has had a tough season with not everything going his way.
"It has been a tight tussle for that No. 9 jersey, with three other talented players pushing for selection, but he has carried himself well throughout those challenges and continues to apply himself and push those around him to be their best."
2018 AWARD WINNERS
Pilecki Medal - Samu Kerevi
Rookie of the Year - Jordan Petaia
Spirit of the Reds - James Tuttle
2018 PILECKI MEDAL TOP 10
Samu Kerevi - 191
Taniela Tupou - 152
Jono Lance - 151
George Smith - 148
JP Smith - 142
Chris Feauai-Sautia - 125
James Slipper - 124
Izack Rodda - 115
Angus Scott-Young - 114
Caleb Timu - 113