Meakes Receives MLR Back Of The Year Award

26 days ago

For the very first time in Major League Rugby’s five-year history, a player has won back-to-back end of season awards.

For the very first time in Major League Rugby’s five-year history, a player has won back-to-back end of season awards.

The player to do so is Bill Meakes, who after a fine 2021 campaign in the white of the LA Giltinis, continued his form into the new year to be named Back of the Year once more in 2022.

Like last year, Meakes was a threat across the field as he and his teammates in California looked to win the MLR Championship for a second year in a row.

Starting all 15 of the games he played, the 31-year-old scored three tries in 2022 led the league in meters carried, beat 43 defenders and even won six turnovers on defense.

“Last year was very different to this year,” Meakes said. “We had different challenges, and I suppose at face value, after winning Back of the Year last year, it was written down in my goal book this year. To receive this award again is pretty amazing and it is another proud moment that I will hang on to.”

ADDED RESPONSIBILITY

In 2021, Meakes’ nod as back of the year came not as a result of his work in attack, but his efforts on the other side of the ball.

Even turning out at openside flanker against the San Diego Legion a year ago, Meakes made 12 appearances, made 76 tackles and forced eight turnovers.

Nearly doubling his meters made total this season, the Australia Sevens international was given extra responsibility this season as a result of the injuries the side were faced with.

“The makeup of our team was fairly different,” Meakes explained. “We lost something like 12 World Cups between DTH [van der Merwe], Swoop [Adam Ashley-Cooper] and Gits [Matt Giteau].

“Our game management was different this year, we obviously lost Luke Carty and Matt Giteau who were our main 10s, so we had people filling in, which shifted my role a bit and put a bit more responsibility on my shoulders. I relished and enjoyed the challenge.

“I probably just found myself with a little bit more ball in hand, and off the back of last year, understanding the competition a little bit more, saw my strengths and the opportunities to impose myself.

“It is something that I have always enjoyed [different challenges] and I have found in my career, when I am out of my comfort zone with challenges put in front of me, that is where I grow the most.

“That is something we saw this year, and looking back at the start of the year, it is not something I expected. As things change, adapt and get thrown at you, it is really nice to look back and see how you reacted to it, and it did work out.”

IN GREEN AND GOLD

Since LA’s season was ended for off field matters, Meakes has gone back home to Sydney, Australia, for the first time in two years.

Having left home in 2020 to take up a short-term contract with London Irish in the English Premiership, following his stint in the country he went straight to Los Angeles.

Such were his performances, Meakes caught the eye of selectors for the Australia Sevens side. Playing in Dubai on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series for Tim Walsh’s side last November, his return to the team coming 10 years after his debut.

Now back in the Australia Sevens setup on a short-term basis, where he aims to play the World Series leg in LA, as well as at the World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, Meakes says it has meant a lot to him to be able to represent his country again.

“That is probably just a reflection, and a result, of a lot of hard work and years and years of grinding behind the scenes,” he said.

“You often hear people saying that opportunities will arise if you keep working hard and putting the green and gold jersey on was not something I had written down in my goal book last year before I represented Australia again.

“I had to write it all down. I was like ‘far out, it has been one hell of a year’, winning an MLR Championship, Back of the Year, getting engaged, playing for my country again, moving to America and all these things.”

Joining up with the Australia Sevens setup in the past two weeks, it was too soon for Meakes to be considered for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, meaning his main opportunity stake a claim at the Rugby World Cup Sevens.

It is a chance for Meakes that means the world, and even offers a chance to turnout in the city he has called home for 24 months.

“To be involved with an opportunity to try and wear the green and gold jersey again will be really special to me,” Meakes said. “The other thing is, being around this environment.

“I had four or five weeks after the season finished, I was starting to get to the point where I was trying to figure out what was happening next. I was getting a bit bored, I thrive in team environments, and I am always trying to keep busy, so when this came up it was something I jumped at.

“There is the World Cup in South Africa and also the World Series leg in LA. Being able to represent Australia, but a big part of me would be there for the Giltinis, in our home city.”

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