To'o, Tonegato take major Origin awards for Blues

Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

Brian To'o has enhanced his status as one of the NRL's most damaging wingers by being crowned NSW's best player in this year's State of Origin series.

To'o collected his maiden representative award at Monday night's Brad Fittler Medal, rewarded for being a force on the wing for the Blues in their 2-1 series loss to Queensland.

Facing stiff opposition from Penrith teammate Liam Martin, To'o became the second Panther after Nathan Cleary to be awarded the medal named after the Penrith legend.

Cronulla fullback Emma Tonegato was hailed as NSW's best women's player, after starring in the Sky Blues' big game two win in Townsville.

While missing out on the main prize, Martin was handed the True Blue award for embodying the state's spirit after he overcame a range of injuries to play through the series.

South Sydney five-eighth Cody Walker also walked away with the fans' choice award, after starring in the Blues' sole win in game three.

Once told he was too small to even play first grade, To'o has become the game's most powerful fullback in recent years, for both Penrith and NSW.

"What a massive honour, I was pretty shocked, I didn't think I would receive this award," To'o said.

"It's one of the highest awards I have ever received, I'm truly blessed. It's the biggest in as long as I can think."

To'o averaged 211 metres per game for the Blues in this year's series, reaching 258 in the final match in Sydney where he also scored the opening try.

"Brian epitomises the attributes of a NSW Blues player as he always gives his all whenever he pulls on the jersey," Blues coach Fittler said.

"He is a hard worker at training and on the field, and brings a great energy to camp that other players enjoy being around.

"Liam brings plenty of natural aggression to the team and I can always count on him to do a job for me, while Cody showed just how dangerous he can be after being recalled for game three."

Tonegato's award came after she had 238 metres and 11 tackle busts as NSW fell four points short of retaining the Origin title on for-and-against.

"It's super special, to be voted player of the series by the players and coaching staff, it's an incredible honour," Tonegato said.

NSW captain Kezie Apps was handed the True Blue award after overcoming a leg injury to be the team's best in the series-opening loss in Sydney, playing at prop.

"I am so happy for Kezie as she had to work so hard to just get herself on the field this year after suffering her injury. 

"To go out and perform like she did, and in a new position as well, was inspiring for her teammates and highlighted her leadership qualities."