Magic Johnson clinches Golden Boot
New Zealand scrum half Shaun Johnson has capped a memorable year by winning the 2014 Rugby League World Golden Boot.
The Kiwis playmaker was man of the the match in the final as his side defeated Australia to lift the Four Nations title – a performance that impressed the 13-man Golden Boot voting panel.
For the second successive year, South Sydney’s English forward Sam Burgess came second in the voting. But whereas last year Burgess was within seven points of Johnathan Thurston, this time Johnson was a decisive winner, collecting almost twice as many points as his nearest rival.
Johnson becomes only the fourth New Zealander to win the prestigious award, following fellow countrymen Hugh McGahan, Stacey Jones and Benji Marshall.
Johnson said: “Being a Rugby League fan growing up, I always knew about the Golden Boot award. I was pretty aware of the players who’d won it before, because they were players that I grew up watching like Stacey Jones and Andrew Johns. Then there was the current players that I admire like Thurston. To receive it is pretty unreal to be honest.
“I felt I finished the year really well and was able to take that into the Four Nations, and was really happy with how I played for the Kiwis.
“It was just made easy by the culture that we have there now and the group of players that we have around us. There’s no way I could have received this award without those boys playing their part, and I’ll accept it on their behalf.”
The panel of 13 judges included representatives from Australia, England, France and New Zealand. Among them were former Golden Boot winner Garry Schofield, ex-Great Britain coach Brian Noble and past Kiwi internationals Robbie Hunter-Paul and Daryl Halligan.
Each judge was asked to hand their leading contender five points, their second three and their third one, from a six-man shortlist. Johnson finished with 44 points, Burgess 23, with James Graham third on 18 and Greg Inglis fourth with 17. Double winner Thurston – who missed the Four Nations through injury – polled 13 points and Kiwi prop Jesse Bromwich two.
“As is always the case with the Rugby League World Golden Boot, we asked the judges to consider the performances on the international stage first and foremost, and it’s undeniable than Shaun Johnson had the biggest impact at that level in 2014,” RLW editor Gareth Walker said.
“Throughout the entire tournament he provided a devastating mix of organising the New Zealand side and producing moments of individual brilliance himself.
“When the Kiwis needed it most in the final against Australia in Wellington, Johnson came up with the play of the competition, scything through the Kangaroos defence and racing past Golden Boot winner Greg Inglis – a feat very few achieve.
“It was a moment that summed up everything good about Shaun Johnson and this current New Zealand side, which is enjoying a golden era itself, having now won four major tournaments in the last decade.”
The Kiwis’ success is further illustrated by the fact that Johnson is one of six New Zealanders in the World XIII – the first time in its history they have had that many – having had five in 1983, 1984 and 2010.
Threequarters Dean Whare and Manu Vatuvei, prop Bromwich and second rowers Kevin Procter and Simon Mannering are all named alongside Johnson, with Australia having just four inclusions this year – Inglis, Michael Jennings, Thurston and Cameron Smith – and England three, Burgess, Graham and Ryan Hall.
An interview with Johnson and the full World XIII voting details appear in the January edition of Rugby League World, available from Friday, December 19. You can download the digital version of that issue to your smartphone, tablet or computer – wherever you are in the world – by visiting http://totalrl.com/rlw
WORLD XIII 2014
1 Greg Inglis
2 Ryan Hall
3 Michael Jennings
4 Dean Whare
5 Manu Vatuvei
6 Johnathan Thurston
7 Shaun Johnson
8 James Graham
9 Cameron Smith
10 Jesse Bromwich
11 Kevin Proctor
12 Simon Mannering
13 Sam Burgess
HOW IT WORKS
For both the Golden Boot and the World XIII, the 13 judges were asked to select a top three in each position, with their first choice earning five points, their second three, and their third one.
PAST GOLDEN BOOT WINNERS
1984: Wally Lewis
1985: Brett Kenny
1986: Garry Jack
1987: Hugh McGahan & Peter Sterling
1988: Ellery Hanley
1989: Mal Meninga
1990: Garry Schofield
1999: Andrew Johns
2000: Brad Fittler
2001: Andrew Johns
2002: Stacey Jones
2003: Darren Lockyer
2004: Andrew Farrell
2005: Anthony Minichiello
2006: Darren Lockyer
2007: Cameron Smith
2008: Billy Slater
2009: Greg Inglis
2010: Benji Marshall
2011: Johnathan Thurston
2012: Kevin Sinfield
2013: Johnathan Thurston