MELBOURNE Storm and Australia captain Cameron Smith has been named the 2012 RLIF International Player of the Year – the highest individual honour in world Rugby League.
Smith, who was also named International Hooker of the Year, is one of eight Australians to be named in the International Team of the Year, along with Storm team-mate Cooper Cronk (Scrum-half of the Year) and his club coach Craig Bellamy (Coach of the Year).
England duo Ryan Hall of Leeds Rhinos (Winger of the Year) and Canterbury Bulldogs forward James Graham (Prop of the Year) are the only non-Australian players to be selected in the International Team of the Year.
Kiwi sensation Shaun Johnson has been named the International Rookie of the Year.
The award caps another amazing season for Smith, who this year was named as the Kangaroos’ new captain, led Queensland to a record-breaking seventh consecutive State of Origin Series triumph, was named Dally M Hooker of the Year, led the Kangaroos to two Test victories over New Zealand and led the Melbourne Storm to the NRL Premiership.
It is the first time Smith has won the award, which was first presented in 2008 to his Melbourne team-mate Billy Slater. Other previous winners are Jarryd Hayne (2009), Todd Carney (2010) and Slater again (2011).
Australia’s Ben Cummins, who this season received the Col Peace Medal as the best-performed referee in the NRL, was named International Referee of the Year.
The awards are voted on by an international judging panel with representatives from both the northern and southern hemispheres.
In announcing the awards, Rugby League International Federation Chairman Scott Carter praised the standard of international Rugby League and also acknowledged the strength of the current Kangaroos side.
“As we look forward to the Rugby League World Cup in the northern hemisphere in 2013, you can’t help but be excited at the talent that will be on display,” Mr Carter said. “The strength of the Australian side at the moment has certainly been reflected in the International Team of the Year and while the Kangaroos will start the World Cup as warm favourites the competition that exists in international Rugby League will ensure the tournament will be as fascinating as it was in 2008 when New Zealand were crowned the World champions.”
The RLIF International Player of the Year award winners are:
International Player of the Year – Cameron Smith (Aus)
International Coach of the Year – Craig Bellamy (Aus)
International Rookie of the Year – Shaun Johnson (NZ)
International Team Of The Year:
Full-back: Ben Barba (Aus)
Winger: Ryan Hall (Eng)
Centre: Jamie Lyon (Aus)
Stand-off: Johnathan Thurston (Aus)
Scrum-half: Cooper Cronk (Aus)
Loose forward: Paul Gallen (Aus)
Second row: Nate Myles (Aus)
Prop: James Graham (Eng)
Hooker: Cameron Smith (Aus)
Competing Nations’ Players of the Year:
Canada: Tony Felix
Cook Islands: Tinirau Arona
Czech Republic: David Lahr
Fiji: Sisa Waqa
France: Vincent Duport
Germany: Mawuli Amefia
Ireland: Liam Finn
Italy: Fabrizio Ciaurro
Jamaica: Fabion Turner
Japan: Noriyuki Tainaka
Malta: Clifford Debattista
Morocco: Souhail Ait Alla
Lebanon: Danny Barakat
Papua New Guinea: Dion Aye
Russia: Sergey Konstantinov
Samoa: Tony Puletua
Scotland: John Duffy
Serbia: Stefan Nedeljkovic
South Africa: Stevie Meyer
Sweden: Tobias Rorstam
Tonga: Brent Kite
USA: Michael Garvey
Wales: Rhodri Lloydd