AUSTRALIA’S Four Nations Final man of the match Johnathan Thurston has been named as the winner of the 2011 Golden Boot, which is awarded annually to the game’s greatest international player by Rugby League World Magazine.
Thurston edged the award by the narrowest of margins over 2007 winner Cameron Smith in a vote involving five former Golden Boot winners, Wally Lewis, Brett Kenny, Hugh McGahan, Ellery Hanley and Garry Schofield, plus Australian coaching guru, journalist and broadcaster Phil Gould, former France coach Louis Bonnery, Papua New Guinea legend Stanley Gene and journalists and supporters from both hemispheres.
Rugby League World editor John Drake commented: “It was one of the closest races for the Golden Boot in years, which emphasises just how much fantastic talent there is in our game at the highest level. It gets harder and harder to separate the best players when it comes to individual awards in what is very much a team game.
“Johnathan’s stand out performances for Australia in the Four Nations thrilled the crowds in England and Wales just as he has thrilled the crowds back home with his club, North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL and for Queensland in State of Origin.
“The Golden Boot award recognises a whole year of performances at domestic and international level. Johnathan’s match-winning performance in the biggest game of the season, the Four Nations final against England proved he is a worthy recipient. The very best players produce their very best performances on the biggest stages.
“We’re delighted to add Johnathan Thurston’s name to the Golden Boot roll of honour, which includes so many international Rugby League legends.”
2011 RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD GOLDEN BOOT – RESULT
1. Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys/Australia) – 175 points – WINNER
2. Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm/Australia) – 170 points
3. Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos/Australia) – 141 points
4. Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors/England) – 110 points
5. James Graham (St Helens/England) – 89 points
6. Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos/England) – 49 points
WORLD XIII UNVEILED
Five of the six players shortlisted for the 2011 Golden Boot also won a place in Rugby League World Magazine’s annual World XIII. The only Golden Boot nominee not to make it was England’s Sam Tomkins who finished runner up to Australia’s Billy Slater in the fullback position. Slater was unlucky to miss out on the Golden Boot shortlist, having been injured in the Four Nations group game against England at Wembley.
Apart from Slater, the only other player to make it into the World XIII who didn’t play in the 2011 Four Nations Final is Many Sea Eagles centre Jamie Lyon.
Despite England’s improved performances in 2011 which saw them reach the Four Nations Final, the World XIII is still dominated by Australians with only Ryan Hall (wing), James Graham (prop) and Gareth Ellis (second row) from England forcing their way into the line-up. That’s one better than 2010 where England’s only two representatives were James Graham and Sam Burgess.
RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD MAGAZINE WORLD XIII – INTERNATIONAL TEAM OF THE YEAR
1. Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm)
2. Akuila Uate (Newcastle Knights)
3. Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
4. Jamie Lyon (Manly Sea Eagles)
5. Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos)
6. Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos)
7. Johnathan Thurston (North Qld Cowboys)
8. James Graham (St Helens)
9. Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm)
10. Paul Gallen (Cronulla Sharks)
11. Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos)
12. Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers)
13. Anthony Watmough (Manly Sea Eagles)