The golden boot was awarded late last night in recognition of the best performances on the international stage with Wigan Warriors and England star Harry Smith missing out.
Smith had been nominated as the sole English hope alongside New Zealanders’ Joseph Tapine and James Fisher-Harris, as well as Australian Payne Haas. Not only was Smith England and Super League’s sole representative, he was also the only back nominated to the final four.
That was extraordinary in itself considering the last forward to lift the award was Wigan’s Andy Farrell back in 2004, marking an era of dominance for the backs however it was a changing of the guard at the awards last night.
Kiwi James Fisher-Harris was named as the winner, becoming the first forward since Farrell and the first prop to win the award since it’s creation back in 1984. Fisher-Harris skippered New Zealand to their incredible victory over Australia, handing down a record defeat following a stellar domestic campaign in which Penrith won their third consecutive Grand Final.
Despite Smith not lifting the award it was a huge honour for the Wigan star to be nominated but even with two Englishman on the selection panel, in Adrian Morley and James Graham, Smith couldn’t edge out the incredible Kiwi captain.
New Zealander Georgia Hale lifted the women’s award with the Gold Coast Titans skipper having helped guide her nation to a first win over Australia since 2016. Hale had started the 2023 campaign in England for Leeds Rhinos before re-joining the Titans.
French star Jeremy Bourson won the wheelchair award, becoming the first French national to be awarded the golden boot, edging out England’s Lewis King after the two countries took one win a piece in their recent clashes.
International Rugby League Chairman Troy Grant congratulated the trio on their accolades, stating: “You only need to hear from their coaches and team-mates to know that James, Georgia and Jérémy are deserved winners of the Golden Boot and worthy of having their names alongside some of the greats of our game,” he said.
“Each played a significant role in the achievements of their team at international level this season, in which all three of last year’s World Cup winners were beaten, and they have now created personal history.
“On behalf of the IRL Board, I would like to congratulate the winners, all of the players who were nominated and the members of the judging panels whose status and achievements in the game ensure the Golden Boot remains one of the most prestigious awards in Rugby League.”
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