Newly-crowned MacDougall Medallist Will Sankey's Super Rugby dream brought him to Canberra and now the Uni-Norths lock is turning heads at ACT Brumbies headquarters.
Sankey is the first Uni-Norths Owls player to win the MacDougall Medal as the John I Dent Cup player of the year since the joint-venture was established in 2001.
But now the 24-year-old has his sights locked on a bigger prize: a place in the Brumbies' Super Rugby program after joining the club for a pre-season training block.
The Brisbane product who came through an under 20s class alongside the likes of Darcy Swain, Len Ikitau and the Lonergan brothers returned to Canberra in 2019.
He was catapulted into the NRC and still has a burning desire to play at the elite level.
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"For sure. I don't think I would be down here if it wasn't," Sankey said.
"Coming through the 20s system made me appreciate the club and realise what it's about. It would definitely be a goal of mine, whether or not it happens is a different story but either way it's a pretty good opportunity to train with them at the back end of this year.
"I got asked to come in and help while the Wallabies have been away and fill a bit of a training void. It's been awesome, it's been an unreal experience.
"We've got a couple of weeks' break at the moment and we go back in November. That'll be full-on up until Christmas which will be good, I'm sure I'll learn a heap."
The 24-year-old claimed the ACT club rugby's highest individual accolade without the fanfare of an awards function amid COVID-19 restrictions. Instead it was a phone call from Owls committee member Phil Doyle breaking the "unreal" news.
ACT Brumbies star Grace Kemp was named best and fairest in the Premier 15s, continuing her meteoric rise on the road to the Wallaroos' World Cup tilt next year.
Uni-Norths mentor Sam Rolfe claimed the Michael Hickey Memorial Trophy as coach of the year in a sign the Owls have arrived as a genuine John I Dent Cup contender.
The Owls sat second on the ladder behind Tuggeranong before the competition was suspended in lockdown, with many suggesting Uni-Norths had emerged as the team to beat.
"I thought we were definitely coming into form coming into the finals. I think everyone as a squad felt like we could do it," Sankey said. "Finals is a different story, anything can happen, but I definitely felt like we had some good momentum going into finals which definitely would have helped."
JOHN I DENT CUP AWARDS 2021
MacDougall Medal - Will Sankey, Uni-Norths Owls
Louise Ferris Medal - Grace Kemp, Canberra Royals
John Hunter Memorial Trophy - Highest Try Scorer - Corey Toole, Gungahlin Eagles (14)
Gus Vallance Memorial Trophy - Highest Points Scorer - Jordan Thompson, Uni-Norths Owls (121)
Michael Hickey Memorial Trophy: Coach of the Year - Sam Rolfe, Uni-Norths Owls
The Anderson Trophy for Sportsmanship - Ben Johnston, Canberra Royals
HS Quinn Trophy for Services to Rugby - Greg Hayes, Tuggeranong Vikings
The Peter Lawler Trophy: Referee of the Year - Matt Hogan
The ACTRU Volunteer of the Year - Watson Blakie, Uni-Norths Owls
The Bill Priest Trophy: Monaro Rep Player of the Year - Adam Lachlan, Goulburn Dirty Reds
Second Division Best & Fairest Player of the Year - Seva Camaivuna, Bungendore Mudchooks
First Division Best & Fairest Player of the Year - Mik Webber, Goulburn Dirty Reds
Community Coach of the Year - Ian McFarlane, Yass Rams
Premier Division Club Championship: The Turner Cup - Gungahlin Eagles
Bob Hitchcock Territory Shield - Gungahlin Eagles
Monaro Club Championship - Goulburn Dirty Reds
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