9 November 2015

An American rugby union hooker who has represented the US internationally is the inaugural winner of The University of Queensland’s Mark Loane Medal.

University of Arizona (Tucson) freshman physics student Steve Branham was awarded the medal at a UQ Rugby benefit dinner in New York Friday Night.

"I am very honoured and grateful to the University of Queensland for this opportunity,” Mr Branham said.

The award will enable Mr Branham to complete a rugby scholarship at the UQ Rugby Academy in Brisbane during his summer vacation next year and to play with the UQ Rugby Club.

“I look forward to making the most out of my time at the university and immersing myself both in the intense rugby atmosphere and the culture of Australia," he said.

The award recognises Mr Branham’s exceptional high school rugby achievements, which include being a four-time All-American playing with the U17 All-Americans squad in 2013 and the USA Rugby Boys U19 High School All-American squad in 2014 for the Rugby Four Nations Cup.

He was also named to the all-tournament team, and has toured in England, Argentina, Portugal, France and Belgium.

Mark Loane was a legendary #8 for the University of Queensland, the Queensland Reds and the Wallabies in the 1970s. 

He is a leading ophthalmologist and has carved a strong legacy delivering eye health services to indigenous and remote communities.

Faculty of Business, Economics and Law Executive Dean Iain Watson said the medal honoured Dr Loane’s exemplary character and integrity on and off the field and aimed to build greater ties between US and Australian rugby.  

“The medal was conceived and announced at the inaugural benefit dinner last year to both honour Mark and promote rugby at the US high school level,” he said

“From all accounts, Steven is a worthy inaugural recipient with an outstanding reputation for skills, ability and aptitude both on and off the field.”

The University of Queensland in America Foundation Volunteer Committee Chair, Brian Macnish, said he believed the medal and scholarship would become a prestigious and much-sought award for excellence in high school rugby.

“This award was conceptualised to recognise and reward an outstanding American high school rugby athlete and help promote and develop the game at that level in the US.“

Media: Alysha Hilevuo, a.hilevuo@uq.edu.au, +61 (0) 428 884 097