JAMES FISHER-HARRIS and Georgia Hale made it a Kiwi double at the International Rugby League Golden Boot awards.
The New Zealand forward pair won the men’s and women’s prizes respectively, awarded for the best performers in the international game in 2023.
Prop Fisher-Harris captained the Kiwis in the Pacific Cup and helped them claim the trophy with a record 30-0 thrashing of the Australian Kangaroos in the final.
Hale also led an against-the-odds triumph over the world champions and number-one ranked side, as the Kiwi Ferns beat the Jillaroos for the first time in seven years.
Fisher-Harris, who was also an NRL winner for the third successive season with Penrith, saw off competition from Wigan and England halfback Harry Smith, as well as team-mate Joseph Tapine and Australia’s Payne Haas.
In the process, he became the first prop to ever win the award, and the first forward since Andy Farrell in 2004.
“I can’t think of a better bloke to take out such a prestigious award,” said Michael Maguire, the New Zealand coach until recently stepping down to take charge of New South Wales, in a message of congratulations to Fisher-Harris.
“In our time together over the years, I have watched you grow from a young player to winning Grand Finals and now leading the Kiwis to an emphatic win against Australia, and creating a bit of history.
“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.”
Hale, who began the year with Leeds in the Women’s Super League before returning to the NRLW and helping Gold Coast reach the Grand Final, was the first forward to win the women’s award.
“She is a professional on and off the field,” said Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry.
“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.
“This is a reward for everything you have done for Rugby League, for yourself, for your family and for us in the Kiwi Ferns environment.
“You are a massive role model for all the young girls playing Rugby League in New Zealand and Australia.”
The Wheelchair award went to Jérémy Bourson, who became the first French winner of any Golden Boot after his starring role in France’s recent away win over England.