Brilliant Warriors and Kiwis halfback Shaun Johnson has become the fourth New Zealander to win the prestigious Golden Boot award. In something of an upset, the 24-year-old took out the gong ahead of Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis and James Graham and Johnathan Thurston, while compatriot Jesse Bromwich was also nominated.
The award, which is run by British magazine Rugby League World, is voted on by a panel of 13 experts. While club and Origin form are taken into account, a heavier weighting is given to international performances – which counted against Burgess and last year’s winner Thurston, who both missed the Four Nations.
Inglis shaped as a favourite after starring in Souths’ premiership triumph before being arguably Australia’s best in the unsuccessful Four Nations campaign. But Johnson, who produced plenty of highlights in arguably his best NRL season to date despite the Warriors flaking out of top-eight contention again, was easily the standout player of the tournament and dominated the final.
He joins Hugh McGahan (1987 – with Peter Sterling), Stacey Jones (2002) and Benji Marshall (2010) as Kiwi winners of the award, which was struck in 1985, while remarkably he is just the fifth halfback to take it out after Sterling, Andrew Johns (twice), Jones and Thurston (twice).
Although Test footy is the main criterion, Johnson is only the third player, after Sterling and Anthony Minichiello (2005), to win the Golden Boot without playing finals football.
GOLDEN BOOT 2014 VOTES
Shaun Johnson (Warriors, New Zealand) – 44 points
Sam Burgess (South Sydney) – 23
James Graham (Canterbury, England) – 18
Greg Inglis (South Sydney, Queensland, Australia) – 18
Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland, Queensland, Australia) – 13
Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne, New Zealand) – 2
Meanwhile, the Kiwis have dominated the traditionally Australian-heavy World XIII named by Rugby League World, with six players selected to the Kangaroos’ four. England had three players named.
WORLD XIII 2014
1 Greg Inglis
2 Ryan Hall
3 Michael Jennings
4 Dean Whare
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Johnathan Thurston
7 Shaun Johnson
8 James Graham
9 Cameron Smith
10 Jesse Bromwich
11 Kevin Proctor
12 Simon Mannering
13 Sam Burgess