Nine male and six female players, representing six different nations, are in contention for the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Sevens Player of Decade awards, in association with HSBC. The winner of the respective awards will be announced at the World Rugby Awards Special Edition at 20:00 GMT on Monday, 7 December.
Compiled from former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year winners, the Player of the Decade lists are made up of players from the southern hemisphere, with the exception of the USA’s Perry Baker.
Baker is the only men’s player to have been awarded the Player of the Year accolade twice, in 2017 and 2018, while New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde is also a two-time recipient in the same years.
At the beginning of the decade, Mikaele Pesamino was the talisman for the Samoan men’s team, scoring 56 tries as they claimed their first and only series title in 2010.
Meanwhile, South African playmaker Cecil Afrika (2011) and speedster Seabelo Senatla (2016) are joined by a third Blitzbok in Werner Kok (2015), a very different type of player but equally invaluable to his team’s cause with his physicality around the park.
Tomasi Cama and Tim Mikkelson won the Player of the Year awards in 2012 and 2013 – in the middle of a run of four straight series titles for the All Black Sevens.
Cama sits second behind England’s Ben Gollings on the series’ all-time list for top point-scorers with 2,026 points, while the ultra-consistent Mikkelson has barely missed a game since first donning the black jersey 13 years ago.
In addition to prolific try-scorer Baker, Fiji’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games gold medal-winning duo, Samisoni Viriviri (2014) and Jerry Tuwai (2019) are also included in the stellar men’s line-up.
Some wonderful players have lit up the eight seasons of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, from the first Player of the Year award winner, Kayla McAlister, to the most recent recipient, and her fellow New Zealander Ruby Tui.
The sister of former All Blacks playmaker Luke, McAlister was named Player of the Year in 2013, only a year after she converted to rugby from netball.
Emilee Cherry (2014) is joined on the list of contenders for the Player of the Decade by fellow Olympic Games gold medal winner, Charlotte Caslick, whose craft in a variety of different roles was the catalyst for Australia’s success in Rio in 2016.
Cherry and Caslick were also key players in Australia’s two series title wins in 2016 and 2018, breaking New Zealand’s hold on the series crowns.
After McAlister, Portia Woodman was the second Black Ferns Sevens star to be named the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year award in 2015, at the age of 24.
Sean Horan, her coach at the time, hailed her as “one of the most gifted and powerful players around”.
Michaela Blyde won back-to-back Player of the Year titles in 2017 and 2018, beating fellow nominee Woodman in claiming her second award.
It capped a remarkable period for Blyde, who had won a historic gold at the Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens earlier in 2018.
Ruby Tui ensured the Player of the Year award stayed in New Zealand hands for a third consecutive year in 2019.
A valued leader on and off the pitch, Tui scored 15 tries in New Zealand’s title-winning season and was named in the HSBC Dream Team.
The World Rugby Awards Special Edition replaces the usual annual World Rugby Awards and will celebrate members of the rugby family who have provided outstanding service to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the players and teams who have starred over the last decade.
The Awards show will be co-hosted by former England international and World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Maggie Alphonsi and rugby presenter Alex Payne. Fans across the globe are encouraged to get involved in the social conversation using #WorldRugbyAwards.