Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies.
Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies. DEAN LEWINS

Cancer sufferer Lealiifano wins prestigious medal

RUGBY UNION: Christian Lealiifano has thanked the rugby community for its continued support in his battle with leukaemia after winning the 2016 RUPA Medal for Excellence.

The medal is one of the most prestigious in rugby in Australia and is awarded to someone who has shown the best performance, leadership, consistency and discipline, both on and off the field, across the international and domestic seasons.

"I'm truly, truly humbled and honoured to receive such an award,” Lealiifano, who has been having treatment for leukaemia since August, said in video message from Melbourne.

"Congratulations to all of the other nominees; I feel like this is probably an award for all of us, and the great work we do in the community to grow the game around the country.

"I want to thank everybody for all of their support through this journey this little man (my son) and I are on at the moment,” he said. "It definitely means a lot and we're all so grateful for your thoughts and prayers.”

In September Lealiifano won the Brumbies' players' player of the year after co-captaining his side to win the Australian Super Rugby conference.

The 29-year-old missed just five minutes of the Super Rugby campaign before being diagnosed with leukaemia.

He also successfully completed a Certificate IV in New Small Business and was a member of the Brumbies' Pasifika players' development program.

This year he won an ACT Government Violence Prevention Award.

Other winners were Melbourne Rebels and Wallabies back Reece Hodge, who won the newcomer of the year award.

Michael Hooper added the people's choice Wallaby of the year to his John Eales Medal.

Charlotte Caslick, who was the star of the Australian Olympics sevens gold medal team, won her second straight women's rugby sevens players' player of the year award.

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