World Rugby has revealed the shortlists for the Men’s and Women’s Sevens Players of the Year 2019 awards in association with HSBC, which will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at The Prince Park Tower in Tokyo, Japan, on 3 November.
A first-time winner of each award is guaranteed, although some of the nominees are no strangers to being nominated for the prestigious accolade with New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini and Fiji playmaker Jerry Tuwai nominated for the fourth and third times respectively. New Zealand’s Ruby Tui is the only other player on the two shortlists with a previous nomination, back in 2017.
The nominees for the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year 2019 in association with HSBC are: Sarah Hirini (New Zealand), Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand) and Ruby Tui (New Zealand).
The nominees for the World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year 2019 in association with HSBC are: Folau Niua (USA), Stephen Tomasin (USA) and Jerry Tuwai (Fiji).
Both shortlists were selected by a mix of votes cast by players (30 per cent) and an expert panel (70 per cent) featuring former sevens stars Humphrey Kayange, Jen Kish, Tiana Penitani, Karl Tenana, Danielle Waterman and Marika Vunibaka.
WORLD RUGBY WOMEN’S SEVENS PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
SARAH HIRINI (NEW ZEALAND)
The inspirational captain of the Black Ferns Sevens for the last five years, Sarah Hirini led her team to Cup titles in Glendale, Dubai and Sydney en route to winning a fifth HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title in 2019. The season also saw New Zealand equal their record of 37 wins in a row on the series and the 26-year-old become the first female to play in 200 matches on the global circuit. Nominated for the fourth time in six years, Hirini has a tireless work ethic which, combined with dogged defence and vision, enables her to unlock defence for herself – as her 17 tries in 2019 shows – and others.
TYLA NATHAN-WONG (NEW ZEALAND)
The top points scorer on the 2019 series with 207, Tyla Nathan-Wong is a vital piece in the success story that is the Black Ferns Sevens. As playmaker, the 25-year-old is blessed with the vision, the skill set and pace to give defending teams plenty of headaches as she showed with her two HSBC Player of the Final accolades in Dubai – scoring two tries against Canada – and Langford. Nathan-Wong may have ended the year as the top goal kicker with 79, but she also crossed for 11 tries as New Zealand showed their dominance to claim a fifth series crown.
RUBY TUI (NEW ZEALAND)
A powerful runner and tireless worker at the breakdown, Ruby Tui is one of the first names down on coach Allan Bunting’s team sheet and someone who never gives less than 100 per cent for the Black Ferns Sevens’ cause. The 27-year-old, like her fellow nominees, was named in the HSBC Dream Team for the 2019 series, having started every match and scored 15 tries in their title-winning season. A New Zealand team without Tui in it is not as scary a prospect for teams, not only for her physicality but the way she inspires others around her with her performances.
WORLD RUGBY MEN’S SEVENS PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
FOLAU NIUA (USA)
A mainstay of the USA team, Folau Niua became his country’s most-capped player in the history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with his 63rd tournament in Sydney in February. The 34-year-old playmaker, who can kick off both feet, was a key factor in the USA’s dominant restart that was at the heart of their most successful season ever, hitting an all-time high of 45 per cent. Niua featured in the USA’s successful title defence in Las Vegas and was named in the HSBC Dream Team for the 2019 series.
STEPHEN TOMASIN (USA)
The youngest of all six nominees at 24, Tomasin is an equally important cog in the USA Sevens team that were the only ones to reach the Cup semi-finals of all 10 events on the 2019 series. A powerful player with plenty of pace, Tomasin is also someone who thrives on pressure situations as he showed with his match-winning try with the last play against Australia at Twickenham. He scored 29 tries last season, a figure bettered only in the USA squad by speedster Carlin Isles.
JERRY TUWAI (FIJI)
Fijian playmaker Jerry Tuwai earns a nomination for the third 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. He may no longer have the captain’s armband but he is still the heartbeat of the Fijian side, helping them win titles in Cape Town, Hamilton, Hong Kong, London and Paris and a third series title for himself. The 30-year-old also featured in the HSBC Dream Team for the third year in a row.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “These players are excellent role models for our sport and embody the values and attributes that rugby sevens stands for, both on and off the field of play.
“The skill and character that they demonstrate has undoubtedly played a part in the ongoing success story of rugby sevens. Last season we saw new records set from a performance perspective, but also in terms of fan engagement with more than 198 million views across our video content which we hope will inspire even more people to take up playing or supporting rugby sevens.”
These awards are two of 12 categories of awards, including the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Players of the Year, World Rugby Team of the Year, World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year and Award for Character.
For more details on the panel members for each of the World Rugby Awards, visit www.worldrugby.org/awards/voting-panel.
For more information on the World Rugby Awards, visit www.worldrugby.org/awards.
Previous World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year award winners:
2018 – Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
2017 – Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
2016 – Charlotte Caslick (Australia)
2015 – Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
2014 – Emilee Cherry (Australia)
2013 – Kayla McAlister (New Zealand)
Previous World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year award winners:
2018 – Perry Baker (USA)
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)