Shaun Johnson has won the 2014 Golden Boot award, with Sam Burgess and James Graham finishing second and third respectively.
A thirteen person panel voted the half-back the best player in rugby league in 2014 on the back of his mercurial performances in the Four Nations that the Kiwi’s went on to win. The New Zealand Warrior was awarded the man of the match award in the final of the tournament. In total, Johnson finished up with nearly twice as many points as Burgess in the vote.
Hugh McGahan, Stacey Jones and Benji Marshall were the only New Zealanders to win the award before this year. On winning the award, 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 were the current players that I admire like Thurston. To receive it is pretty unreal to be honest.”
For recent rugby union convert Burgess, it was the second successive year that he had finished as runner up for the award. Despite winning the NRL grand final with South Sydney Rabbitohs, Burgess finished up 21 points behind Johnson in the vote, with fellow England forward James Graham and Australia’s Greg Inglis tied for third place a further five points behind.
The thirteen judges who decided the award included former Great Britain coach Brian Noble, previous Golden Boot winner Garry Schofield, former Kiwi internationals Robbie Hunter-Paul and Daryl Halligan. France, Australia, New Zealand and England were all represented by judges on the panel.
“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 that Shaun Johnson had the biggest impact at that level in 2014,” RLW editor Gareth Walker said.
Last years winner Jonathan Thurston and big Kiwi forward Jesse Bromwich made up the rest of the six man shortlist, finishing fifth and sixth in the vote respectively.
As ever, the announcement of the award winner has divided opinion and been met with criticism by some. Foxsports.au writer Ben Glover described Johnson’s winning of the award as an ’embarrassment,’ and went on to suggest that Johnson was only the ‘third or fourth best half-back’ in the NRL in 2014.