James Fisher-Harris has become the first male prop forward to win Rugby League's prestigious Golden Boot award, amid backlash over Payne Haas' nomination. The New Zealand and Penrith Panthers forward was voted best male international player of the year on Wednesday after leading the Kiwis to glory at the Pacific Championships last month.
The voting panel of Adam Blair, James Graham, Darren Lockyer, Adrian Morley and Ruben Wiki voted selected Fisher-Harris for the top gong ahead of Haas, Kiwi teammate Joseph Tapine and England halfback Harry Smith. "I can't think of a better bloke to take out such a prestigious award," outgoing Kiwis coach Michael Maguire said.
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"You led right from the front, right from the time you walked into the month of the camaign that we had together. You're an absolute champion with the way you go about things, and there's a lot of reasons why you're such a success in rugby league."
Fisher-Harris' Golden Boot award adds to his bulging trophy cabinet that also features three premiership rings and two Dally M Prop of the Year gongs. The 27-year-old averaged 137 metres per game across the Pacific Championships and helped the Kiwis thrash Australia 30-0 in the final - the Kangaroos' biggest-ever loss.
It was double delight for New Zealand on Wednesday, with Georgia Hale winning the women's Golden Boot. Hale became the first forward to win the women's gong after the Kiwi Ferns also beat Australia in their Pacific Championships final.
The Gold Coast Titans captain made more tackles than any other player in the six-point win in the final, and ran for more metres than any forward. "Georgia does the things that other players don't want to do on the footy field; the things that people don't get rewarded for or recognised for," Kiwi Ferns coach Rick Henry said. "She is a professional on and off the field."
Uproar over Payne Haas' nomination for Golden Boot
Fisher-Harris' triumph came after Haas' nomination sparked backlash from a number of commentators. The Brisbane Broncos forward only played two Tests for Australia and was dominant in the first game against Samoa. However he was rested for the next game against New Zealand and had little impact in the final - also against the Kiwis.
“Payne Haas only played two Tests,” Andrew Voss said on SEN Radio. “How does he get a nomination? This is a farce. He sat out the second game and played in the final where his team lost 30-0.
“In the final, Haas ran for the least amount of metres in a game this year. How does he get nominated? How does this award now fly with any integrity whatsoever? This is a farce. Whoever runs the Golden Boot, there needs to be a hint of transparency.”
Penrith legend Greg Alexander added: “The Golden Boot has lost its meaning. If someone can win an award and play two games, one of which they were smashed (then) it takes away from what the Golden Boot used to be. How can you be the best player of the year internationally when you are being judged off two or three games? It needs to be revamped.”
Joey manu won it last year and New Zealand didn’t make the WC final. The system has always been a joke
— Jarad Garland (@jaradgarland) December 5, 2023
It’s a shame that this nomination will taint the award for the winner
Like the Dally M and the Immortals, the Golden Boot needs to be blown up in its current format
— 91 03 21 22 23 PREMIERS 🐾🏆 (@SnoogThe) December 4, 2023
Vossy S right Haas in no way should be top 4 for the golden boot
— Sally (@SallyGearing) December 4, 2023
The Golden Boot should be discontinued
— Off-season Dan (@suthodan) December 6, 2023
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