Australian fullback Billy Slater is tipping his team-mate Johnathan Thurston to win this year’s Golden Boot as the world’s best player.
Thurston was voted the Man of the Match in Saturday’s World Cup Final, as Australia registered a convincing 34-2 victory over New Zealand to win the World Cup for the tenth time, with a record World Cup Final margin.
He also won the Harry Sunderland Medal, which is awarded to Australia’s outstanding player in a Test series. Thurston won the Golden Boot in 2011, and is among the leading contenders to be one of the six players shortlisted for the award, which will be revealed in this Friday’s issue of Rugby League World magazine.
Thurston was excluded from the shortlist from last week’s Rugby League International Federation International Player of the Year award, which was won by New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams. And he didn’t make the RLIF International Team of the Year, giving way to Scotland’s Danny Brough for the stand-off half spot.
But Slater, who plays with Thurston for Queensland, as well as Australia, is one of his greatest admirers.
“He is a great player and I am very fortunate to play with him at State of Origin level and for Australia,” Slater said.
“He picked up our players’ player award and he got the player of the series and he thoroughly deserves it.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he picks up the Golden Boot either.
“He is a tremendous player. “He is not a super fast guy, he is not a super big guy but he has got a great football brain and he makes the right decisions most of the time.”
Slater scored two tries in the World Cup Final, despite a troubling knee injury sustained two weeks earlier against the USA that had caused him to be in severe doubt for the Old Trafford showdown.
He subsequently donated his winners’ medal to the Australian conditioner Tony Ayoub for his role in getting Slater fit to play.
“It is probably the most nervous I have been going into a game for a long time. To be perfectly honest I didn’t really convince myself at training that I was ready,” admitted Slater.
“I probably looked okay in training, but it didn’t feel great in the lead up to the final. A lot of credit has got to go to our medical staff. They worked around the clock for the last fortnight to get me ready for this game. I have got to thank them a lot.
“It was great feeling for me to first of all actually get on the field. Then, for us to perform the way we did was great, especially against such a talent side like New Zealand. To be a World Champion is an incredible feeling.
“It was certainly disappointing to lose in 2008, there’s no question about that, but you’ve just got to look forward and focus on becoming a better player. And that’s what I have done since the World Cup Final in 2008.”
The Australians started the game the stronger, with a 16-2 lead at the break, which they never looked likely to relinquish.
Tries from Slater and Cooper Cronk gave them the platform, before Slater added a second, and Brett Morris also grabbed a brace. During the first ten minutes of the game, New Zealand lost a potential gamebreaking player in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Aussie scrum-half Cooper Cronk admitted that helped his side as he revealed their Cup Final strategy that worked so well.
“When Roger Tuivasa-Sheck went off we knew we could attack their right-side more. Losing a first-team player like they did was always going to benefit us,” said Cronk.
“The most pleasing thing about today was that every one of our players contributed.”
The names of the six players shortlisted for this year’s Rugby League World Golden Boot will be revealed in this Friday’s edition of Rugby League World magazine, which will also be available online. Click here.