The six nominees have been revealed for the 2014 Golden Boot award for the best player in world rugby league – and they’re all from the NRL. But it’s by no means an Aussie-fest, with British forwards James Graham and Sam Burgess, and Kiwi stars Shaun Johnson and Jesse Bromwich joining Kangaroo duo, and previous winners, Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston on the shortlist.
Rugby union-bound Burgess got the nod despite not having played any representative football, while the glaring omission is Jarryd Hayne, who was the joint Dally M medallist with Thurston and the player most responsible for NSW winning their first Origin series in nine years.
“As always, we will ask our 13-man voting panel to consider performances at international level first and foremost, but such was the impact of both Sam Burgess and Johnathan Thurston in the NRL this season that we felt it was impossible to overlook either of them,” said Gareth Walker, editor of English magazine Rugby League World, which presents the award.
We run the rule over the 2014 efforts of the Golden Boot contenders, their key stats, and their respective chances of winning the award below:
Undoubtedly ranks alongside James Graham and Matt Scott as the best props in the game after a magnificent season as Melbourne’s Player of the Year, while he was the best forward in the Four Nations and a cornerstone of the Kiwis’ watershed success. An absolute workhorse, the unassuming Bromwich is mobile, capable of busting the line and can pop a great ball. Comparisons with Arthur Beetson are superfluous, but there are similar traits – and Bromwich is still just 25 years old.
2014 Numbers: Melbourne – 24 games, 3 tries, 367 hit-ups (7th NRL), 50 offloads (4th NRL), 679 tackles, 15 Dally M points.
New Zealand – 5 Tests, 0 points.
Comm Box Golden Boots Odds: 8-1.
A colossus for South Sydney throughout 2014, Burgess went very close to becoming the first prop or backrower to win the Dally M since 1989, while his Clive Churchill Medal-winning performance with a broken face was staggering. His consistency, work-rate and impact was extraordinary – a vintage year from a player we desperately hope to see make an SBW-like return to the NRL one day. Not playing for England dents his Golden Boot chances significantly, but he’s decent chance of becoming the fifth Brit, after Ellery Hanley, Garry Schofield, Andy Farrell and Kevin Sinfield, to win the gong.
2014 Numbers: South Sydney – 26 games, 10 tries, 510 hit-ups (1st NRL), 893 tackles (9th NRL), 58 offloads (2nd NRL), 29 Dally M points.
Comm Box Golden Boot Odds: 7/2.
Sensational all season for Canterbury with his rare blend of toughness, aggression, work-rate, skill and ball-playing class. The pasty front-rower was the driving force behind the Bulldogs’ bewildering charge to the grand final. Captained England to a win over Samoa, but was a bit below his influential best throughout the Four Nations, although he was still one of his nation’s finest performers.
2014 Numbers: Canterbury – 28 games, 5 tries, 443 hit-ups (2nd NRL), 985 tackles (5th NRL), 15 Dally M points.
England – 3 Tests, 0 points.
Comm Box Golden Boot Odds: 10-1.
Despite being part of unsuccessful campaigns for Queensland and Australia, 2014 was arguably GI’s most satisfying year achievement-wise and from a consistency perspective. The fullback’s breathtaking brilliance was a constant feature of Souths’ charge to the premiership, while he was solid enough for the Maroons and was the Kangaroos’ best in the Four Nations. Inglis claimed the Golden Boot in 2009.
2014 Numbers: South Sydney – 24 games, 13 tries (16th NRL), 19 line-breaks (3rd NRL), 333 hit-ups (15th NRL), 14 Dally M points.
Queensland – 3 games, 0 points.
Australia – 5 Tests, 5 tries.
Comm Box Golden Boot Odds: 2-1.
Far and away the standout player of the Four Nations for the triumphant Kiwis with two man-of-the-match awards in twin victories over Australia – not to mention an outstanding performance in the Anzac Test – Johnson would stroll away with the gong if it was based purely on form in internationals. The 24-year-old halfback wizard had perhaps his most consistent year at club level, but was unable to lift the erratic Warriors to a finals berth – despite producing his customary genius on frequent occasions. Aiming to become the fourth Kiwi Golden Boot winner, after Hugh McGahan, Stacey Jones and Benji Marshall.
2014 Numbers: Warriors – 21 games, 9 tries, 163 points (6th NRL), 11 line-breaks, 11 try assists, 218 kicks in play (9th NRL), 10 Dally M points.
New Zealand – 5 Tests, 2 tries, 34 points.
Comm Box Golden Boot Odds: 6-1.
Unwaveringly consistent, tenacious and brilliant for his club, everyone in the game felt sorry for JT after the Cowboys suffered another unlucky finals exit – particularly after his mighty individual display against the Roosters. He claimed a record-equalling third Dally M Medal in a season that prompted many to suggest he is at least the equal of the Immortal Andrew Johns. Endured possibly his worst Origin series, though, unable to find his rhythm without Cooper Cronk’s steadying influence as Queensland lost the opening two games. Was excellent in Australia’s Anzac Test win over the under-strength Kiwis. Thurston is the reigning Golden Boot winner, and also won it 2011.
2014 Numbers: North Queensland – 24 games, 11 tries, 234 points (1st NRL), 31 try assists (1st NRL), 19 line-break assists (1st), 13 line-breaks, 242 kicks in play (5th NRL), 32 Dally M points.
Queensland – 3 games, 16 points.
Australia – 1 Test, 10 points.
Comm Box Golden Boot Odds: 6-1.