Five Kiwis are in contention for rugby league’s most prestigious international prize, after the long lists for the 2023 Golden Boot awards were released.
Kiwis captain James Fisher-Harris heads the list, along with Joseph Tapine, Jahrome Hughes, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Ronaldo Mulitalo. There are players from six other countries – including four Australians and a quartet from England, along with representatives from Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Cook Islands.
But one of the New Zealanders will be favoured to take the top gong, following the Kiwis’ historic 30-0 win over the Kangaroos in the Pacific Championship final earlier this month.
Fisher-Harris appears to be the standout contender. He was consistent across all three matches and led the Kiwis’ superbly in his first campaign as skipper. Adding to his case will be Penrith’s third consecutive premiership and his significant role in that, which can’t be ignored, even if the focus of the award is international based.
Tapine would be the next strongest nominee. The Canberra player tends to be underrated, compared in Australians at bigger clubs but has developed into one of the best middle forwards in the game, with an array of skills few can match. The 29-year-old was one of a handful of Kiwis to emerge with credit from the Kiwis 36-18 loss to Australia in Melbourne and was among the best on field in the other two tests.
Hughes also shone throughout the Championship - particularly at Eden Park and Waikato Stadium - while Mulitalo and Nicoll-Klokstad enjoyed coming of age performances in the black and white V.
Since the men’s award was first conceived in 1984 – for best performances in test matches across a calendar year - six players from this country have been honoured, including three in the past decade.
Kiwis’ legend Hugh McGahan was the first – in 1987 – with Warriors’ icon Stacey Jones the next in 2002, followed by mercurial playmaker Benji Marshall in 2010. More recent winners have been Shaun Johnson (2014), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (2018) and Joseph Manu (2022).
There are also strong local contenders for the women’s Golden Boot award, headlined by 2022 winner Raecene McGregor, along with Kiwi Ferns team-mates Apii Nicholls, Mele Hufanga and Georgia Hale. They were standouts among the squad that managed the drought-breaking win over Australia last month in Melbourne, the first time the Jillaroos had been beaten since 2016.
The contenders will be narrowed down to a shortlist next week, before the overall awards are decided by a group of former players.
The men’s panel includes Ruben Wiki, Adam Blair, Darren Lockyer (Australia) and English duo Adrian Morley and James Graham. The quintet are among just nine players to have played 50 tests for their country.
The women’s IRL Golden Boot winner will be decided by Kiwi Ferns great Honey Hireme-Smiler, Jillaroos stalwart Karyn Murphy and former England prop Danika Priim.
“There has been more international rugby league played in recent months than any other period in recent memory outside of a World Cup year and players have again demonstrated their passion for representing their countries of birth or heritage,” said IRL chairman Troy Grant.
“It is a sign of how competitive the game is at international level that the three World Cup champions – the Kangaroos, Jillaroos and England Wheelchair – were all recently beaten in gripping contests that showcased rugby league at its best.”
Matty Ashton (England) John Bateman (England) Jahream Bula (Fiji) Su’a Faalogo (Samoa) James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand) Addin Fonua-Blake (Tonga) Harry Grant (Australia) Payne Haas (Australia) Jahrome Hughes (New Zealand) Edwin Ipape (Papua New Guinea) Tui Kamikamica (Fiji) Lachlan Lam (Papua New Guinea) Mikey Lewis (England) Esan Marsters (Cook Islands) Ronaldo Mulitalo (New Zealand) Cameron Murray (Australia) Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (New Zealand) Harry Smith (England) Hamiso Tabuia-Fidow (Australia) Joey Tapine (New Zealand)
Elisa Akpa (France) Toru Arakua (Cook Islands) Lauréane Biville (France) Belinda Gwasamun (Papua New Guinea) Georgia Hale (New Zealand) Amy Hardcastle (England) Mele Hufanga (New Zealand) Raecene McGregor (New Zealand) Apii Nicholls (New Zealand) Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala(Samoa) Tiana Penitani (Tonga) Georgia Roche (England) Jess Sergis (Australia) Tamika Upton (Australia)
1984 Wally Lewis (Australia)
1985 Brett Kenny (Australia)
1986 Garry Jack (Australia)
1987 Hugh McGahan (New Zealand) and Peter Sterling (Australia)
1988 Ellery Hanley (England)
1989 Mal Meninga (Australia)
1992 Garry Schofield (England)
1991-98 No award given
1999 Andrew Johns (Australia)
2000 Brad Fittler (Australia)
2001 Andrew Johns (Australia)
2002 Stacey Jones (New Zealand)
2003 Darren Lockyer (Australia)
2004 Andrew Farrell (England)
2005 Anthony Minichiello (Australia)
2006 Darren Lockyer (Australia)
2007 Cameron Smith (Australia)
2008 Billy Slater (Australia)
2009 Greg Inglis (Australia)
2010 Benji Marshall (New Zealand)
2011 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2012 Kevin Sinfield (England)
2013 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2014 Shaun Johnson (New Zealand)
2015 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2016 Cooper Cronk (Australia)
2017 Cameron Smith (Australia)
2018 Tommy Makinson (England)
2019 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Joey Manu (New Zealand)
2018 Isabelle Kelly (Australia)
2019 Jess Sergis (Australia)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)
Michael Burgess has been a sports journalist since 2005, winning several national awards and covering Olympics, Fifa World Cups and America’s Cup campaigns. He has also reported on the Warriors and NRL for more than a decade.2023-11-20T16:20:24Z dg43tfdfdgfd