The long list of candidates for the Golden Boot was announced earlier this month with a handful of Englishmen named, but it’s now been cut to just four players and only Harry Smith remains as the English hope.
Winning the Golden Boot as an Englishman would be no mean feat considering that since the turn of the millennium only three players from these shores have managed to pick up the award.
That elite list is limited to Tommy Makinson (2018), Kevin Sinfield (2012) and Andy Farrell (2004), whilst both Garry Schofield and Ellery Hanley won it in 1990 and 1987 respectively.
Today the four man shortlist has been announced including Smith, James Fisher-Harris, Joseph Tapine and Payne Haas, all of whom would become the first forward to be crowned best player in the world since Farrell’s win back in 2004.
International Rugby League released the shortlist overnight with Smith as the stand-alone back on the list, the short-list announced via a statement on the IRL’s website.
It read: “Kiwis captain James Fisher-Harris, lock Joseph Tapine and Kangaroos prop Payne Haas are in line to become the first running forward to win the IRL Golden Boot in 20 years after being selected on a short list of four nominees for the 2023 award.
“Fisher-Harris and Tapine, who helped New Zealand to a record 30-0 defeat of Australia in the inaugural Pacific Cup final, are vying with Haas and England halfback Harry Smith for the 2023 IRL Golden Boot as international player of the year.
“The last running forward to win the Golden Boot was former Great Britain captain Andy Farrell, who played mostly second-row or lock in his 34 international appearances before switching to rugby union, where he now coaches Ireland.
“Former Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith, who is one of nine players to have played more than 50 internationals, won the Golden Boot in 2007 and 2017 but he was a dummy half and not a running forward like Fisher-Harris, Tapine and Haas.
“The only other forward to have won the Golden Boot was former New Zealand captain Hugh McGahan in 1987, while England’s Kevin Sinfield played halfback when he received the award in 2012.
“The men’s 2023 IRL Golden Boot short list of Fisher-Harris, Haas, Smith and Tapine was chosen by a panel comprising of Golden Cap recipients Adam Blair, James Graham, Darren Lockyer, Adrian Morley and Ruben Wiki, who have each played more than 50 internationals.
“The quartet were selected from a long list of 20 players nominated by members of the media in Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, after the conclusion of the Pacific Championships and the historic England-Tonga series.”
The statement from the IRL also confirmed the shortlist for women’s and wheelchair player of the year, with the nominees being Georgia Hale, Mele Hufanga, Apii Nicholls and Tamika Upton for the women’s Golden Boot.
As for the wheelchair Golden Boot there is an English representative as Lewis King is on the shortlist alongside Jeremy Bourson of France.
The winners of the three awards will be announced in early December.