28 November 2023

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 centre Harry Smith for the 2023 IRL Golden Boot as international player of the year.

Kiwi Ferns trio Georgia Hale, Mele Hufanga, Apii Nicholls and Jillaroos fullback Tamika Upton have been shortlisted for the women’s Golden Boot, while Frenchman Jeremy Bourson and England’s Lewis King are the contenders for the wheelchair Golden Boot.

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 women’s IRL Golden Boot winner short list was chosen from 14 nominees after the Pacific Championships, which featured New Zealand’s first triumph over the Jillaroos since 2016, and internationals in Europe.

Players from England, France, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Cook Islands were also nominated, before the New Zealand trio of Hale, Hufanga and Nicholls and Australia’s Upton were shortlisted.

The women’s 2023 IRL Golden Boot winner will be selected by Australian Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy, former New Zealand dual code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.

The judges of the 2023 Wheelchair IRL Golden Boot are Malcolm Kielty (England) and Robert Fassolette (France), the two key figures in establishing the sport, along with another driving force in the game’s development in Martin Coyd, and long serving administrator Niel Wood, who has been a member of the IRL’s Wheelchair Rugby League advisory committee.

Bourson and King were shortlisted for the Golden Boot after last weekend’s international between World Cup finalists England and France in Marseilles, in which the visitors avenged their defeat in Leeds three weeks earlier.

France’s Lionel Alazard and the England trio of Sebastien Bechara, who is the current Golden Boot holder, Jack Brown and Nathan Collins were also considered.

IRL Chair Troy Grant congratulated the 10 players shortlisted for the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Golden Boot awards.

“The IRL Golden Boot is one of the game’s most prestigious awards and any of the nominated players would be a worthy winner,” Mr Grant said.

“In recent weeks we have seen all three of last year’s World Cup winners – the Kangaroos, Jillaroos and England Wheelchair team – beaten, and this shows how closely contested the international game is.

“That is reflected in the nominations for the 2023 Golden Boot and there is no clear-cut candidate for any of the awards.

“On behalf of the IRL, I would like to thank the panels of former greats of our game, and those who have made a significant contribution to the development of Wheelchair Rugby League, for their involvement in helping to choose the 2023 international player of the year.”

The IRL Golden Boot is awarded to the best player in sanctioned rugby league international matches each year.

The 2022 IRL Golden Boot winners were New Zealand’s Joey Manu and Raecene McGregor, and England Wheelchair star Sebastien Bechara.

The winners of the 2023 IRL Golden Boot awards will be announced in early December.


IRL Golden Boot Short Lists


James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand)
Payne Haas (Australia)
Harry Smith (England)
Joseph Tapine (New Zealand)


Georgia Hale (New Zealand)
Mele Hufanga (New Zealand)
Apii Nicholls (New Zealand)
Tamika Upton (Australia)


Jeremy Bourson (France)
Lewis King (England)

Previous IRL Golden Boot Winners


1984 Wally Lewis (Australia)
1985 Brett Kenny (Australia)
1986 Garry Jack (Australia)
1987 Hugh McGahan (New Zealand)
and Peter Sterling (Australia)
1988 Ellery Hanley (England)
1989 Mal Meninga (Australia)
1990 Garry Schofield (England)
1992 Garry Schofield (England)

1991-98 No award given
1999 Andrew Johns (Australia)
2000 Brad Fittler (Australia)
2001 Andrew Johns (Australia)
2002 Stacey Jones (New Zealand)
2003 Darren Lockyer (Australia)
2004 Andrew Farrell (England)
2005 Anthony Minichiello (Australia)
2006 Darren Lockyer (Australia)
2007 Cameron Smith (Australia)
2008 Billy Slater (Australia)
2009 Greg Inglis (Australia)
2010 Benji Marshall (New Zealand)
2011 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2012 Kevin Sinfield (England)
2013 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2014 Shaun Johnson (New Zealand)
2015 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2016 Cooper Cronk (Australia)
2017 Cameron Smith (Australia)
2018 Tommy Makinson (England)
2019 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Joey Manu (New Zealand)


2018 Isabelle Kelly (Australia)
2019 Jess Sergis (Australia)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)


2019 Jack Brown (England)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Sebastien Bechara (England)


As seen on nrl.com

Cronulla centre Annessa Biddle has claimed the 2023 Dally M NRLW Rookie of the Year Award after a superb debut season for the Sharks.

Spotted by Sharks recruiters playing for the Otara Scorpions in the Auckland rugby league competition, Biddle began her NRLW career on the Sharks’ edge before coach Tony Herman shifted the 21-year-old to right centre due to her strength and speed.

Biddle took her game to new heights on Cronulla’s right side and went on to score two tries, lay two assists and make 26 tackle breaks in her six games at centre.

“What a season it’s been for me and I’m just so honoured and privileged to receive this award especially with the amount of outstanding rookies there were,” Biddle said.

The Kiwi rookie also finished second in the competition for post-contact metres (620), only 83 metres behind star Titans prop Shannon Mato at the end of the regular season.

Biddle was also voted by the players as the Rugby League Players’ Association NRLW Rookie of the Year earlier in the week.

The other finalists for Dally M rookie of the year were China Polata from the Cowboys and Rilee Jorgensen from the Titans.

As seen on nrl.com

Shaun Johnson’s stellar 2023 season has been capped with three awards including the One New Zealand Warriors’ highest accolade – the Simon Mannering Medal – at the club’s 29th annual awards at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland tonight.

In a season of singular achievement he was also judged by his peers as the players’ player of the year and won the One New Zealand People’s Choice award voted by the public.

The triple sweep comes five days out from Johnson celebrating his 33rd birthday on the same day the One New Zealand Warriors meet Penrith in their first NRL finals match in five years.

In winning the premier award, Johnson emulates the great Stacey Jones, the only other halfback to receive the accolade in the club’s history when he was honoured in 1997.

Also rated as a strong chance to win the prestigious Dally M Medal as the NRL’s player of the year, Johnson has been in sublime form throughout his first season back home since the 2018 season.

He was on the field for all but 22 minutes of a possible 1842 minutes in the first 23 games of the campaign before being rested for Saturday’s final regular season match against the Dolphins.

He’s the competition’s fifth highest points-scorer this year with 176 including eight tries, his best season tally since he scored 10 tries in 2016.

Johnson has more try assists than any other player with a career-best 27 plus 24 line break assists, 16 line break involvements, 10 line breaks and 38 tackles breaks.

He has dominated kicking statistics with the most kick metres (11,866) and most kicks (383) while he is a close second for most attacking kicks (190) and one off the top for most short drop-outs with 25.

Yet it was Johnson’s defensive efforts including his kick-chase which won plaudits from his teammates and coaching staff alike. He has made a career-high 433 tackles so far at an effective tackling rate of 92 per cent, the best he has ever achieved.

14th December 2022 


As our communities returned to the field post two Covid-disrupted years, a full-strength domestic rugby league calendar saw some stand-out talent across the motu. NZRL is pleased to announce the 2022 Domestic Rugby League Award recipients.  


The Grassroots Club of the Year was highly contested in 2022. NZRL would like to recognise runner-up clubs; Ravens (Hukanui / College Old Boys) (Upper Central); Linwood Keas (South Island), He Tauaa Rugby League Club (South Island) and Dannevirke Tigers (Mid Central). All clubs achieved outstanding results regarding participation growth, sideline behaviour, volunteer upskilling and implementing Kiwi Way values across the game.  


The Porirua Vikings’ (Wellington) impressive on-field results and representation across all grades, coupled with the impact of their community programme,s has seen them awarded the 2022 Grassroots Club of the Year.  


The club was recognised in the Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards for outstanding volunteer service to their community. This included a community health day promoting COVID vaccinations and pandemic support and the implementation of an employment programme encouraging unemployed players to undertake education and training to assist with future job prospects.  


The 2022 Men’s and Women’s Domestic Player of the Year awards have gone to Tevin Arona (Auckland Vulcans) and Abigail Roache (Counties Manukau).  


Arona had an outstanding year leading the Vulcans to their promotion to the 2023 NZRL Premiership after a dominant Championship display. Arona was crowned Championship Final MVP and took home top try-scorer and goal-kicker for the 2022 tournament.  


Roache took home the ARL Cathy Friend Women’s Player of the Year before being called up to make her Test debut for the Kiwi Ferns at the Rugby League World Cup in England. She played an integral role at five-eighth guiding the Ferns to a finals appearance at Old Trafford.  


The 2022 18s Boy’s and Girl’s Player of Year awards have gone to Rodney Tuipolotu-Vea (Counties Manukau) and Alexis Tauaneai (Upper Central / Wellington). 


Tuipolotu-Vea played an integral role in De La Salle’s success story at the NZRL Secondary Schools Tournament, which he followed up with an impressive performance for the NZRL18s Boy’s Schools team.  


Tauaneai was crowned National 9s Tournament MVP, playing an integral role in the Orcas’ win. She then impressed at NZRL Youth Girl’s competition for Upper Central making the Girl’s 18s Club squad for 2022.  


Counties Manukau stars Augustino Filipo and Braxton Sorensen-McGee, have taken home the Boy’s and Girl’s 16s Player of the Year awards. 


Filipo captained the 16s Stingrays to a National Championship victory before making the Auckland Invitational representative squad. He’s described as “a natural born leader who always thinks of others and shows opponents respect on and off the field, win or lose.” 


Sorensen-McGee was voted MVP in the Auckland Secondary School final and played an integral role in Auckland Girls’ journey to the National Secondary School final. She was rewarded with a New Zealand Secondary School representative selection before impressing in Counties’ National 16s Girls Youth Tournament victory. 


The South Island region has produced the Coach, Manager and Trainer of the year for 2022.  


Archie Jacobs has been awarded 2022 Coach of the Year after coaching the South Island 20s, South Island Scorpions 18s Boys and the NZSS 18s Boys.  


Canterbury’s Lee Mou has taken home Trainer of the Year after working as head trainer for the Canterbury Bulls, the South Island 20s and the New Zealand 18s Boys Clubs side who were victorious against the NZSS side last month. 


Sabrina Manu has been awarded Manager of the Year after a busy 2022 managing the Canterbury Women’s side, South Island Scorpions 16s Girls, 16s Girls Aotearoa Whaanui Team and the Linwood Women’s side. 


Paki Parkinson has taken home Match Official of the Year for the third year running after being selected to officiate at the Rugby League World League Cup in England.  


Northland’s Gina Allan has been awarded Pirtek Volunteer of the Year for her dedication towards growing rangatahi and female participation in the Northland region. For more information on Gina’s story, click here. 


NZRL CEO Greg Peters says, “These awards recognise exceptional work in our domestic and community space both on and off the field.  


“Thank you to those in our rugby league communities who continue to go above and beyond for our game. It’s the dedication of our people that keeps rugby league thriving – thank you for another great year.” 




Grassroots Club of the Year – Porirua Vikings (Wellington) 


Men’s Domestic Player of the Year – Tevin Arona (Auckland Vulcans) 

Shortlist: Jamel Hunt (Counties Manukau); Jordan Campbell (South Island). 


Women’s Domestic Player of the Year – Abigail Roache (Counties Manukau) 

Shortlist: Kelly Maipi (Counties Manukau); Cassie Siataga (South Island); Jamie Tautari (Upper Central). 


18s Boys Player of the Year – Rodney Tuipolotu-Vea (Counties Manukau) 

Shortlist: Jordan Chapman (Wellington); Makaia Tafua (Wellington). 


18s Girls Player of the Year – Alexis Tauaneai (Upper Central / Wellington)  

Shortlist: Tamisha Tulua (Counties Manukau); Kyla Lynch-Brown (South Island); Kimoana Niupalau (Upper Central). 


16s Boys Player of the Year – Augustino Filipo (Counties Manukau)  

Shortlist: Joshua Totara Kopua (Counties Manukau); Mangaroa Mark (Waikato); Maui Winitana-Patelesio (Wellington); Ezekiel Faga-Ieti (South Island); Marley Igasan (Upper Central). 


16s Girls Player of the Year – Braxton Sorensen-McGee (Counties Manukau) 

Shortlist: Molly Byford (Upper Central); Trinity Tauaneai (Wellington); Anya Clark (South Island). 


Coach of the Year – Archie Jacobs (South Island) 

Shortlist: Andrew Palepale (Counties Manukau); Damian White (Upper Central); Ake Pereira (Wellington); Jed Lawrie (South Island); Steve Buckingham (Akarana). 


Trainer of the Year – Lee Mou (South Island)  

Shortlist: Nicole Liesching (Counties Manukau); George Smyth (Upper Central); Willie Vunipola (Mid Central). 


Manager of the Year – Sabrina Manu (South Island) 

Shortlist: Deborah Tupou (Counties Manukau); Cindy Petero (Upper Central). 


Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson (Upper Central) 

Shortlist: Marissa Puketapu (Wellington); Daniel Price (Mid Central); Jack Feavers (Southern Zone). 


Pirtek Volunteer of the Year – Gina Allan (Northland) 




14th December 2022 


Off the back of impressive international seasons and Golden Boot accolades, Joseph Manu [Kiwi #815] and Raecene McGregor [Kiwi Fern #140] have both been awarded Player of the Year for 2022. 


Breakout performances at debut World Cup campaigns see Dylan Brown and Brianna Clark take home the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year awards, while an outstanding 2022 season sees Ronaldo Mulitalo [Kiwi #824] earn Kiwis Young Player of the Year. 


Manu ended the 2022 season solidifying his status as one of the best players in rugby league. He impressed at fullback for the Kiwis, playing out of his usual Dally M centre position, earning MVP of three out of six Kiwis’ internationals for the year. The Tokoroa star ran a world record 401 metres in the Kiwis’ mid-season Test against Tonga and ran more than 300 metres in each of his five World Cup appearances, scoring three tries.  


Kiwis’ Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “Joey is a special player and has made his mark as one of the best in the world. 


“In a year that’s seen him take home a Dally M, a Golden Boot and now the Player of the Year for his country, he’s well on his way to becoming one of the great Kiwi players.” 


Raecene McGregor [Kiwi Fern #140] has earned herself Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year after a spectacular 2022 season. The premier half claimed the 2022 Dally M award and the prestigious Golden Boot to cement her place as one of the best in the world. McGregor led the Kiwi Ferns to a World Cup final and scored three tries with seven try-assists and six line-breaks throughout her international season. 


Kiwi Ferns’ Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “Rae is one of those rare players, a leader and a playmaker who’s the best in her position. 


“Having her in our campaigns gave the girls a lot of confidence. Her ability to manage a game effectively and make players around her play well are special talents. She’s had a fantastic year and I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”  


Dylan Brown [Kiwi #826] has been named the Kiwis Rookie of the Year after an outstanding international season in the Black and White. In June, he debuted for the Kiwis in front of a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium, where he produced two try-assists, 94 metres, and 27 tackles in the 26-6 victory against Tonga. The 22-year-old went on to feature in four matches at the RLWC, scoring his first Test try against Lebanon and dotting down again in a standout individual performance in the valiant semi-final loss to Australia. 


Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “Dylan has had an outstanding year full of career milestones, and he’s only just getting started.  


“He is an integral member of our Kiwi spine alongside last year’s Player of the Year, Jahrome Hughes. As they spend more time together in the Kiwi jersey, they’re well on their way to becoming one of the strongest pairings in Test football.”  


Brianna Clark [Kiwi Fern #164] has taken home Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year after a breakout Rugby League World Cup campaign for the Kiwi Ferns.  


Clark was a standout, kicking seven goals across the opening two pool wins against France and Cook Islands despite starting on the bench. She came into the front row for the group-stage classic against Australia and scored a try in the semi-final defeat of England taking the Ferns to the World Cup final. 


Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “Bri was instrumental for us; she stood out in every game she played. 


“She led from the front, put her body on the line and brought energy and momentum to every play. She’s a special player and we’re lucky to have her in our squad.” 


Ronaldo Mulitalo [Kiwi #824] has been awarded Kiwis Junior Player of the Year, an accolade that looks at both NRL and international performance. Mulitalo flourished out wide for a burgeoning Cronulla combination in 2022, producing 30 line-breaks and scoring 17 tries in 24 games (equal-third in the NRL) as the club powered to a top-four finish. 


The Ellerslie Eagles junior had a stellar Test debut performance as the Kiwis prevailed 26-6 against Tonga in June. He scored on debut, made two line-breaks and ran for 147 metres. Mulitalo, widely regarded as arguably New Zealand’s No.1 winger then shone on the world cup stage, scoring tries against Ireland and Fiji, before producing a brilliant display in the Kiwis’ gallant semi-final exit, capping off an impressive year for the 22-year-old Kiwi. 


Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “We have an exciting group of young Kiwi players and Ronnie is a part of that special group. 


He’s a very proud Kiwi, and you could see the passion with which he played when he wore the Black and White jersey. If he keeps on the path he’s going, he can become one of the great wingers of our game.”  


New Zealand Rugby League would also like to congratulate Roko Nailolo on taking home the Kiwis Physical Disability Player of the Year.  


Roko was sensational at the Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup, scoring a hattrick in 12 minutes against Australia and leading the team to a World Cup final against England. He was an integral playmaker in every game and arguably the best in the competition. 






Kiwis Player of the Year – Joseph Manu 

Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year – Raecene McGregor 

Kiwis Physical Disability Player of the Year – Roko Nailolo 


Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Dylan Brown 

Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year – Brianna Clark  

Kiwis Young Player of the Year – Ronaldo Mulitalo  


















December 16, 2020

The 2020 NZRL Community Award recipients have tonight been announced with Mangere East Rugby League Club taking out NZRL Grassroots Club of the Year.

What was a truly testing year, Mangere East shone through as a servant for its community, going above and beyond to provide a safe space, while continuing to promote and grow the game of rugby league despite the year’s challenges.

Mangere Easts’ weekly ‘Life Soup Kitchen’ provided free hot meals throughout the year in a safe environment for families that were struggling to make ends meet. The club responded quickly to Auckland’s second lockdown by providing a free Covid-19 testing station in their car park, encouraging members within their community to get checked.

Gala days, school holiday programmes and free meals for local families, are only a fraction of the work Mangere East have been doing off the field to continually serve the needs of their people, epitomising NZRL’s More Than A Game.

The 2020 NZ 16s Player of the Year was awarded to Marists’ Tre Fotu. He was a standout against the NZ Māori 17s scoring a double and continually asking questions of the defence.

NZ 16s Head Coach, Phil Gordon says; “Tre is a young man who epitomised the meaning and value of wearing the Black and White jersey. He was a focused trainer, disciplined in his approach and committed to executing game plans and structures at the highest level.”

The NZ 18s Player of the Year for 2020 was awarded to Northcote Tiger and NZ 18s Clubs captain, Sam McIntyre. Sam captained the NZ 18s Club team in the inaugural Schools v Clubs match, scoring one try and leading his side to a 34-22 victory.

NZ 18s Head Coach, Tusa Lafaele says; “Sam has always displayed a high skill level, technique and ability as an athlete. Often what separates the talented from the successful, is the attitude and fortitude to work hard and be prepared to make sacrifices. Sam has always applied himself in this manner, striving for success and competing with true grit.”

Akarana veteran, Francis Leger, was awarded NZRL Domestic Men’s Player of the Year due to his outstanding season captaining Akarana to their fifth straight NZRL Premiership victory, as well as the NZ Residents.

Harata Butler took home NZRL Domestic Women’s Player of the Year after a successful season in Counties Manukau colours, earning her MVP of the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership as well as her international Kiwi Ferns debut.

NZRL Domestic Coach of the Year was awarded to Phil Gordon after he coached his undefeated Akarana side to an impressive fifth NZRL Premiership, as well the NZ Resident 16s to a convincing 42-6 victory over the NZ Māori Resident 17s.

NZRL Match Official of the Year was awarded to veteran Paki Parkinson after a successful season officiating the NZRL Premiership, NZ 16s and the NZ Residents v NZ Maori Residents.

Pirtek’s 2020 Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Takahiwai’s Shayne Wassel. Despite several disabilities including mild deafness, speech impediment and blindness in one eye, the single father of four never lets that get in the way of his ability to go above and beyond for his local club, whanau and community – Read more about Shayne’s story here.

NZRL would also like to give a special mention to runner up clubs for Grassroots Club of the Year, the Eastern Eagles and Timaru Outlaws.

Despite financial difficulties, the Eastern Eagles immediately switched focus to supporting its club members and the wider community through the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeking support from local businesses, the Eagles procured and co-ordinated the receipt and delivery of hundreds of food packs and other essentials items, reaching pockets of the community that were often missed.

The Timaru Outlaws, just four years old, had only one U7s team in 2018, as of 2020 they now have five junior teams playing under the senior side equating to around 100 registered U13 players. Based in a non-traditional rugby league area, with no club rooms, it’s the collective efforts of the community and their strong whanau values-driven approach that has seen this club flourish with momentum only continuing to rise.

NZRL CEO, Greg Peters says, “These awards recognise exceptional work in our grassroots, domestic and community space both on and off the field. We congratulate each recipient on their outstanding achievement.

“Thank you to those in our rugby league communities who continue to go above and beyond for our game. In what was a challenging year for most, it’s the dedication of our people that keep rugby league thriving – thank you.”


2020 NZRL Community Award Winners

  • Grassroots Club of the Year – Mangere East
  • Domestic Men’s Player of the Year – Francis Leger
  • Domestic Women’s Player of the Year – Harata Butler
  • Domestic Coach of the Year – Phil Gordon
  • U16s Player of the Year – Tre Fotu
  • U18s Player of the Year – Sam McIntyre
  • Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson
  • Pirtek Volunteer of the Year – Shayne Wassel

To watch the NZRL Community Awards, please click here.

The NZRL High-Performance Awards will be broadcast tonight Sky Sport 4 at 7:30 pm.

NZRL wish to congratulate the following 2020 Distinguished Service Awards Recipients:

  • John Peter Brimble
  • John Gary Clarke
  • Bill Liddell
  • Stanley Nicholas
  • Gary Whittle

John Peter Brimble

John has had a lifelong interest in rugby league. His involvement with NZU&TS’s saw him become a trusted and extremely knowledgeable advisor on all matters from governance and management to sponsorship, funding applications and fundraising. As an organisation that was constantly in a state of flux, he was a steadying influence and one who drove the profile of the organisation to the point where it became more visible and effective.

John was a guiding force through his interest in rugby league of the Otago Rugby League and served either officially or ex-officio over a number of years using his skills and knowledge of sport through his role as CEO of Sport Otago to provide a positive influence.

With the inception of the Southern Zone he was instrumental in the rebirth of Otago Rugby League, heading the interim Board formed in 2010 to get the game back up and running. He served as Chair of the Otago Rugby League Judicial Committee and adjudicated over a number of hearings where his common-sense approach was very conducive to good outcomes for the game and its participants.

Having been appointed to the inaugural Southern Zone Board in 2010, he served on the Board for nine years, the last six as Chair. His contribution to building what has become the leading Zone in NZ has been immense. With careful stewardship that recognises good governance, he has supported the staff and volunteers in the game in the Southern Zone through the ups and downs of sport. He became highly regarded at NZRL for his studied approach and for his solution-based approach to issues and challenges.

John Gary Clarke

Gary Clarke has been involved in rugby league for more than 70 years, serving the game at Club, District, Zone and National levels as a player, coach, administrator and sponsor.

Gary began playing rugby league as a five-year-old and went on to a distinguished playing career as a courageous defender, tactically astute halfback, and tenacious battler against the odds before taking up Coaching.

Gary has operated Gary Clarke Plastics for 36 years and has been a generous sponsor at club and provincial levels for decades.

The plastics factory incorporates a magnificent Rugby League Museum. He has collected and displayed hundreds of pieces of memorabilia. When his original factory was destroyed by the earthquake, he included the Museum in his move to new premises

He hosts annual South Island ex-Kiwis functions and other Rugby League events at the Museum. He keeps a caring outlook on ageing members of the South Island ex-Kiwis and their well-being.

Gary was awarded the Queens’ Service Medal for services to sport and philanthropy in 2015.

Bill Liddell

Looking at service to the game of Rugby League in the Bay of Plenty, Bill Liddell is one of only two in the District to have given so much of his life to the sport.

His Match Manager / Draw creator / Competition Manager roles were juggled with the Chairman responsibilities for the District and family Business duties. Humble unassuming and will never ask for recognition.  The length of service Bill has amassed within the game spans over 20 years.

Stanley Nicholas

Stanley (Bunny) is well known and respected throughout all regions with many turning to him for advice and guidance. He has a fair and unbiased approach to ensuring the only thing that wins is the game of rugby league.

While Bunny and his whanau have put countless hours into growing the game, this did take a toll. He has stepped back to allow others to take the reins and ease up his pressures. However, he is always in the background providing support and encouragement everywhere he can.

Bunny spends countless hours visiting schools, running lunchtime training and maintaining contacts to help grow interest in the sport amongst the youth in Tauranga. He continues to dedicate his time to running competitions, maintaining clubs, building numbers, introducing new initiatives and supporting the Zone In any way that he can.

Gary Whittle

Gary has dedicated a large portion of his life to serving the game of rugby league and the communities within the code.

He has served as a referee, Administrator, Ground Announcer, Time Keeper, Match Manager, Committee member, Vice-Chairperson and Chairperson.

He has refereed in Northland, Auckland and Waikato regions and was an executive member of the Auckland Rugby League Referees Association from 1977 until 1981 and in 1982 was elected Vice President. In 1996 Gary was elected a Life Member of the Association.

Gary was also a member of the Centenary Committee that organised the Association’s 100-year celebrations in 2010 and still attends meetings of the Association five or six times a year.

From 1985 until 1992 Gary was Chairman of the Auckland Police Rugby League Club.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Honey Hireme reign supreme at the 2018 New Zealand Rugby League Annual Awards announced on Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show tonight.

Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) had one of his best seasons in the black and white jersey, accumulating over 130 run metres for all four end-of-season Test matches in England, and proved crucial in the Kiwis historic 26-24 win over Australia.

Michael Maguire says: “As a senior player within the Kiwis camp, Jared put a lot of time into discussing the growth of the Kiwi team. He has immense passion towards where he wants to see the black and white jersey and this is a real quality of his,”

“Off the back of his brilliant season in club land, he was in a good position to play his best footy for the Kiwis and that’s exactly what he did. His experience has been invaluable in mentoring younger players to step up into international rugby league,” Maguire says.

The powerhouse prop capped off his 2018 NRL season with his second NRL premiership win, a title he was able to share with Kiwis teammate Joseph Manu (finalist for Kiwis Rookie of the Year).

In one of the biggest years to date for women’s rugby league, Honey Hireme was hard to go past when it came to crowning the Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year, an award she won back in 2012. As co-captain of the Kiwi Ferns alongside veteran teammate Laura Mariu, she crossed the ditch to play for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership, an experience she says has benefitted her game.

“The addition of this year’s NRL competition was great for the women’s game. The fact that we could all come together in Kiwi Ferns camp following four weeks of competing in the elite space, was hugely beneficial when it came to pulling on the black and white jersey against the Jillaroos,”

“The more we can play at the top level, the better our game gets. I’m grateful for receiving this award but would also like to recognise the efforts of the other finalists (Kimiora Nati and Aieshaleigh Smalley) and our Kiwi Ferns teammates, my family for their undying support, management and coaching staff,” she says.

The Kiwis Rookie of the Year award was picked up by Kiwi #810 Ken Maumalo, a player who earnt his Kiwis call-up in June at Mile High Stadium before going on to play in all five 2018 Kiwis Test matches, scoring four tries. His impressive season with the Warriors and Kiwis attracted high praises from coach Michael Maguire and rightfully so, given he amassed 15 tackle breaks and 801 run metres over the three Tests he played against England.

“Both Ken and Jared are two players that are hungry for the Kiwis jersey to reach new heights and that’s pleasing,”

“It has been really enjoyable coaching Ken, the more he plays, the more he grows so I look forward to seeing what he does next year,” Maguire says.

Joining Maumalo in playing her first Test at international level, Onjeurlina Leiataua has been rewarded for her break out season with the Warriors women’s team, and the stellar part she played in the Kiwi Ferns narrow loss against the Jillaroos at Mt Smart Stadium this year. These achievements saw her pick up Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year.

Promising youngster, Isaiah Papali’i wins Junior Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, having been awarded Warriors Rookie of the Year and receiving his Kiwis debut in England after leading the Junior Kiwis in their match-up against the Junior Kangaroos in October.

This year’s award winners showcase players and match officials performing at the pinnacle of rugby league, as well as community representatives and volunteers who prove to be the backbone of grassroots rugby league in New Zealand.

New Zealand Rugby League wishes to congratulate the award winners from all 13 categories below:

Pirtek Female Volunteer – Karen Gibbons Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)

Pirtek Male Volunteer – Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)

Grassroots Club of the Year – South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)

Domestic Coach of the Year – Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)

Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)

NZ 16s Player of the Year – Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

NZ 18s Player of the Year – Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)

Domestic Premier Player of the Year – Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)

Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year – Onjeurlina Leiataua (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Ken Maumalo (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Fern Player of the Year – Honey Hireme (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Kiwis Player of the Year – Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)

He’s known to most as ‘The Mad Butcher,’ but what many may not know about Sir Peter Leitch, is just how much he has done for rugby league and the sport’s community in New Zealand.

It’s hard to remember a Kiwis Test match where Sir Peter Leitch wasn’t present and when it comes to Warriors games, he’s basically a walking billboard who pulls people from all walks of life into the game to get a taste of being a part of the rugby league whanau.

Many can recognise the unique ability rugby league has to unite and empower communities, and those people who make that possible very rarely want the accolades to show for their hard work. Sir Peter Leitch is one of those special people who inject rugby league with life and purpose but he is quick to point out that he “doesn’t do it for the awards.”

At the Kiwis reunion recently, NZRL Chairman Reon Edwards presented Sir Peter Leitch with a special recognition pounamu taonga to honour his tireless contributions to rugby league that dates back to the 1970s.

“Sir Peter has touched the lives of so many people within the NZRL community,”

“Whether it’s assisting league communities with fundraising or helping individuals who may not otherwise have the resources to reach their goals, he generously gives his time and money to support those in need without expecting anything in return and has done for many years,” Edwards says.

Leitch began his association with league through the Mangere East Hawks in Auckland during the 1970s before becoming involved with NZRL, the Kiwis and Warriors.

He was NZRL patron from 2011 to 2017, manager of the Kiwis’ successful 2005 Tri-Nations campaign and the Warriors have even retired the No. 19 jersey in his honour.

It’s safe to say his efforts go beyond the usual life membership criteria, his kind gestures purely done for the love of rugby league and its people.

“My newsletter (Mad Butcher’s Club weekly newsletter) has been going for almost 20 years now and just like everything I do, it’s for the game and the people within it,”

“I was humbled to receive the pounamu in front of the 2018 Kiwis team and a room full of Kiwis legends that have also given their lives to the game,” Leitch says.

His passion for rugby league is infectious and New Zealand Rugby League wishes to thank Sir Peter Leitch for all that he has done for the game of rugby league in New Zealand.

By Will Evans

John Coffey has documented the rich history of rugby league in Canterbury and New Zealand more extensively than any other person, but he has also become part of its fabric himself.

In addition to Coffey being named a Life Member of New Zealand Rugby League earlier in the year, he was also recognised last night at the New Zealand Sports Journalism Association Awards with an NZSJA Life Membership.

New Zealand’s most prominent rugby league journalist, historian and author, West Coast-born Coffey covered rugby league, cricket and other sports for The Press for 44 years (1963-2007).

He authored, among many other books and sporting biographies, the seminal work The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League (2007), which was part of a trio of tomes he and the late Bernie Wood painstakingly put together along with the histories of Maori Rugby League and Auckland Rugby League; New Zealand Rugby League Greats (1991); the brilliantly researched Strike! The Tour That Died of Shame (2012); Canterbury XIII: A Rugby League History (1987); and The Hard Yards: Rugby League in Canterbury 1912-2012 (2012).

A keen club rugby league player and cricketer who played in the 1971 CRL grand final for Marist, Coffey covered the 1974 Commonwealth Games and many Kiwis tours to Australia, and Great Britain and France, as well as grassroots footy during its Canterbury heyday. Coffey was bestowed with the Queen’s Service Order in 2012 for services to sports journalism and history, and still resides in Christchurch.

A long-time correspondent for iconic Australian magazine Rugby League Week, the esteem Coffey is held in beyond these shores was perfectly illustrated by the NRL inviting him to be on the voting panel for the recently revamped Hall of Fame this year.

Coffey has covered (and continues to, through his weekly contributions to the Mad Butcher’s Newsletter) rugby league with integrity, style, humour and passion that earned him scores of fans but also the respect and friendship of the players and coaches he wrote about.

His journalistic example should be held up as a beacon for young scribes to follow.

As a historian Coffey’s contribution cannot be understated. Without his immense dedication, as well as the efforts of the likes of Wood, Bud Lisle Carey Clements, and the NZRL Museum team, there would be cavernous gaps in our knowledge of the game’s narrative.


NZ Kiwis skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Kiwi #794) is up against NRL Premiership winning forward, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) and Kiwi #771 Kevin Proctor for the 2018 Kiwis Player of the Year Award.

Finalists have been selected in all 13 NZRL Awards categories, including Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year which will be hotly contested by Kiwi Ferns co-captain Honey Hireme, NRL Grand-Final Player of the Match Kimiora Nati and powerhouse prop Aieshaleigh Smalley.

Kiwis debutants Joseph Manu, Ken Maumalo and Dally M Rookie of the Year, Jamayne Isaako will face-off for the Kiwis Rookie of the Year award – all three having had outstanding seasons with their respective clubs and thriving in their Kiwis career debut seasons.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took home the top Kiwis award last year but the 2018 Dally M Award winner was out of contention for this year’s Kiwis end of season campaign in New Zealand and England due to injury.

Last year’s Junior Player of the Year, Isaiah Papali’i won the award as a 19-year-old and is still eligible this year following a stellar season with the Warriors and as captain of the Junior Kiwis. He faces challenges from the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Taranaki-born Mawene Hiroti, as well as Warriors youngster Joseph Vuna.

The Pirtek Volunteer of the Year awards also shine light on the incredible efforts of grassroots volunteers from around the country. These finalists have contributed to their clubs and communities in ways that are invaluable to the game of rugby league in New Zealand.

Award winners will be announced on 12 December on a special edition of Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show at 7.30pm and NZRL’s website & social media channels.

Below is the full list of NZRL Awards finalists:

Kiwis Player of the Year 2018


  • Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)
  • Kevin Proctor (Gold Coast Titans)
  • Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)


Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year 2018


  • Honey Hireme (St George Illawarra Dragons)
  • Kimiora Nati (Brisbane Broncos)
  • Aieshaleigh Smalley (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Rookie of the Year 2018


  • Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters)
  • Ken Maumalo (NZ Warriors)
  • Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos)

Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year 2018


  • Onjeurlina Leiataua (NZ Warriors)
  • Masuisuimatama’alii Tauasa-Pauaraisa (NZ Warriors)

Junior Player of the Year 2018


  • Mawene Hiroti (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
  • Joseph Vuna (NZ Warriors)
  • Isaiah Papali’I (NZ Warriors)

Pirtek Female Volunteer of the Year 2018


Debbie Neylon-Kennedy (Southern, Canterbury)

Michelle Harding (Southern, Canterbury)

Hana Kakoi (Southern, Canterbury)

Denise Proctor (Northland, Nga Tama Toa)

Junie Shelford (Northland, Takahiwai)

Sariah Matautia (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Agnes Koti (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)

Rose Nahu (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)

Ally Tamihere (Mid Central, Gisborne Tairawhiti)



Pirtek Male Volunteer of the Year 2018


David Field (Southern, Canterbury)

Tony Grenfell (Southern, Canterbury)

Chris Perriam (Southern, Southland)

Peter Kerridge (Southern, West Coast)

Josh Cleaver (Mid Central, Taranaki)

Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)

Frank Proctor (Northland, Nga Tama Toa)

Nick Waihi (Northland, Marist Brothers)

Tim Tapaki (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Stephen Purcell (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Carl Gribble (Akarana, Auckland)


Grassroots Club of the Year 2018


Wairau Taniwha (Southern, Tasman)

Lonestar Cowboys (Southern, Southland)

South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)

Rolleston Warriors (Southern, Canterbury)

Takahiwai Warriors (Northland)

Otahuhu Rugby League Club (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Manurewa Rugby League Football & Sports Club Inc (Counties Manukau, Auckland)


Domestic Coach of the Year 2018


Rusty Matua (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Tusa Lafaele (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)


Match Official of the Year 2018


Gary Smallridge (Southern, Canterbury)

Owen Harvey (Southern, Canterbury)

Chris McMillan (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Paki Parkinson (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)


NZ 16s Player of the Year 2018


Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Quinnlan Tupou (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Lani Graham-Taufa (Akarana, Auckland)


NZ 18s Player of the Year 2018


Kayal Iro (NZ Warriors)

Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)

Mahuta Ngataki-Matthews (Upper Central, Waikato)


NZRL Premier Player of the Year 2018


Drew Radich (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

James Baxendale (Southern, Canterbury)

Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)




















[easy_countdowner name=”NZRL Awards nominations close” theme=”default” animation=”smooth” end_date=”2018-11-21″ end_time=”00:17:00″ day_label=”Days” hour_label=”Hours” minute_label=”Minutes” second_label=”Seconds” day_color=”#60686F” hour_color=”#60686F” minute_color=”#60686F” second_color=”#60686F” circle_bg_color=”#E2E2E2″]

Every year NZRL recognises those who have gone above and beyond with awards for Volunteer of the Year and Grassroots Club plus awards for players, referees and coaches.

Complete your nomination form online to acknowledge someone you think has done an outstanding job for rugby league this year.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Apii Nicholls picked up the top two Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns awards last year, while 76-year-old Hornby Panthers legend, Jack Newson and Northland’s Chantez Connor were recognised for their stand-out voluntary contributions to rugby league. Who will be this year’s award winners?

Want to add your two cents? Submit your nominations by clicking here.

For all other information including awards criteria click here.

Nominations close 5pm Wednesday, 21 November, 2018.

The Rugby League International Federation is proud to announce the short lists for the 2018 Golden Boot. The award recognises the most outstanding performances in both men’s and women’s international matches and covers all fully sanctioned international games played from the final of RLWC2017 to the England v New Zealand game played today.

The first ever Women’s Golden Boot will go to one of five nominees:

Ali Brigginshaw (Australia)
Brittany Breayley (Australia)
Georgia Roche (England)
Honey Hireme (New Zealand)
Isabelle Kelly (Australia)

The Men’s Award will be selected from the short list of 4, which was narrowed down from a long list of 10, by the panel drawn from rugby league media in both the northern and southern hemisperes.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (New Zealand)
Elliott Whitehead (England)
James Tedesco (Australia)
Tommy Makinson (England)

The winner will be announced at the Hall of Fame & RLIF Golden Boot Dinner which will be held at Elland Road, Leeds on Wednesday November 7th.

Kiwi #779 and Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been named the Player of the Year for the second season in a row at the Warriors’ annual awards in Auckland tonight.

The 25-year-old fullback is the inaugural winner of the Simon Mannering Medal, announced tonight to honour the retiring club legend following his 300th NRL appearance in Friday’s win over Canberra.

Tuivasa-Sheck is the fourth player to take out the award more than once following five-time winner and Kiwi #731 Mannering and two-time winners Steve Price and Ben Matulino.

The Kiwi international also had the support of fans, claiming the People’s Choice Award which is voted on by the public, while he remains a front-runner to take out the Dally M Award for the NRL’s player of the year to be named later this month ahead of the grand final.

The recognition comes after Tuivasa-Sheck re-signed with the Warriors for four years just before the season started before going on to play 22 of 24 games, leading the club to their first finals appearance in seven years.

The Warriors capped their regular season campaign and celebrated Mannering’s 300th appearance with a tense 20-16 win over the Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium to give them a 15-9 record, tied for the second best record in the club’s 24-year history.

Along the way, Tuivasa-Sheck has carved out a total of 4058 metres (fourth best in the NRL), averaging 184 metres a game including 1093 post-contact metres. In the round 23 win over Newcastle, Tuivasa-Sheck made 338 metres, while he leads the way in kick return metres (1330) and sits fifth for most tackle breaks (109).

“I want to thank everyone who played a part in choosing this award,” said Tuivasa-Sheck.

“It just comes down to my team. Thank you boys for all of your support.

“It’s been unreal, always coming in every day to training and competing and helping me to become a better player.

“I appreciate it, this one’s for the team.”

The other nominees for the Player of the Year gong were front rower Agnatius Paasi, hooker Issac Luke, bench utility Jazz Tevaga and left wing Ken Maumalo.

Meanwhile, captain James Bell collected the two awards for the Warriors’ Intrust Super Premiership side – as the ISP Team Man of the Year and ISP Player of the Year.

The Warriors NRL Rookie of the Year is second rower Isaiah Papali’i while five-eighth Blake Green claimed the Clubman of the Year award in his first season in Auckland.

Long-time team manager Laurie Hale was named the Club Person of the Year and Jayden Penerate was recognised as the Sir Peter Leitch Member of the Year.


Sir Peter Leitch Member of the Year – Jayden Penerata
People’s Choice Award – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
ISP Team Man of the Year – James Bell
NRL Rookie of the Year – Isaiah Papali’i
Club Person of the Year – Laurie Hale
Clubman of the Year – Blake Green
ISP Player of the Year – James Bell
NRL Player of the Year – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Simon Mannering Medal)

By NZ Herald – David Skipwith

Northland Rugby League’s very own wahine toa Chantez Connor selflessly gives her time to the game expecting absolutely nothing in return.

Connor reluctantly accepted the Pirtek Female Volunteer of the Year award at this year’s Annual NZRL Awards and her touching acceptance speech encapsulated the passion that is so evident in the rugby league community.

Her sheer dedication towards servicing the game of rugby league in Northland stems from when Connor first became involved in rugby league when she was five-years-old. She is now a qualified coach and referee, club administrator and team manager who is involved in all aspects of the game from juniors through to premiers.

In recent years she has been instrumental in growing participation and interest in the women’s game. In 2016, Chantez started a women’s team and grew interest to organise a match in the far north and fundraised for an Auckland team to play in Whangarei. 2017, for this passionate Northlander, started with a revamp of the Rugby League Northland Premiership linking history, seeking sponsorshio and producing a video promotion for an advertising campaign.

However, her work didn’t stop there. After a 25 year absence, she led the charge to include a Northland team in the NZRL National Women’s Tournament. As a result of this, there has been a surge in registrations from teenage girls no wanting to play rugby league. This success looks to be emulated through the formation of a school girls’ competition in the region.

With these commitments, plus her own job and family to look after, Rugby League Northland appreciate the extra hours she puts in to making sure rugby league thrives in the region.

New Zealand Rugby League would like to thank Chantez for her ongoing voluntary commitment and passion towards the game that is having such a positive impact in Northland.

You’ll struggle to find a volunteer who has dedicated more of their life to rugby league than Jack Newson.

The 75-year-old was the well deserved recipient of the Male Pirtek Volunteer of the Year award at the NZRL Annual Awards earlier this year. This award recognises the tireless efforts of our sport’s behind-the-scenes legends at grassroots level.

As a Life Member of the Hornby Rugby League Club, Newson lives and breathes the game and is said to be one of the club’s biggest supporters.

“He is extremely humble, and never ever asks for anything in return. We as a club are honoured to be in his presence”

His involvement with the Hornby Rugby League Club spans over 65 years as a player, coach, executive member and life member, and he currently still plays for the Masters team. Not only does he help with skills days for juniors, he fixes and maintains the club and is always the first person to be watching and supporting around Canterbury’s fields.

Newson sat down with Andrew King from Christchurch’s Western News to chat about his life of rugby league.

So Jack, you have a longstanding tie with the Hornby Panthers, 66 years and counting. What got you into league?

“When I was growing up every young kid around the country wanted to be an All Black. But we were from Hornby and we wanted to be Kiwis. That was the difference, we are a staunch rugby league area. League dominated and I still love the game right up to today. It has been my life.”

Now you volunteer for the club and was named top male volunteer of the year by NZRL. Are there more people helping out nowadays or less?

“There is plenty of people who help out with the club and we have an excellent committee who gets a lot of work done. I just help out when I can and I don’t live far away. I go over there every week. I like to go to the schoolboys’ prize giving. I love watching the younger kids coming through. Gave up coaching but I really like watching them develop their skills. There is a lot of good coaches there now, that have
passed me. I used to coach 14s take them to 15s then to 16s and then drop back down and do it all over again.”

So what keeps you coming back to help out?

“It is part of my life. My love of the club, the sport all rolls into one. It is a major part of my life. When my boys finished playing I was a bit lost. I had been flat tack chasing teams here there everywhere then it just stopped. Now grand kids are coming through so it all started again.”

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Kiwi #779) and Apii Nicholls-Pualau took home the Kiwis Player of the Year and Women’s Player of the Year awards respectively at the New Zealand Rugby League Annual Awards last Friday night.

The dynamic full-back ended the 2017 World Cup with the equal most tries scored (3), the most carries (72) and the most metres carried (626) for the Kiwis. Head Coach David Kidwell says such achievements were no small feat considering Tuivasa-Sheck had recently returned from a serious knee injury.

“In some cases, it takes a fair amount of time for a player to get back to fine form following such a serious injury, but Roger did everything right and ultimately showed great leadership at the back.

“He’s a quality young-man who was a pleasure to coach and I congratulate him for his impressive performances throughout the NRL season and at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup,” Kidwell said.

While top honours in the men’s category went to Tuivasa-Sheck, Women’s Player of the Year was picked up by his female fullback counterpart, Apii Nicholls-Pualau.

After an outstanding season with the seven time National title winning Counties Manukau Stingrays, Nicholls-Pualau was selected to fill the void of previous Kiwi Ferns captain and fullback, Sarina Fiso, who won 2016 Women’s Player of the Year. Being named Back of the Tournament at the National Women’s Tournament was yet another feather in her cap.

Apii took ownership of the number one jersey stamping her mark as the starting Kiwi Ferns fullback for the entirety of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. She also topped the leader board for kick return metres at the World Cup racking up a massive 279 metres, but Nicholls-Pualau was quick to downplay her accomplishments.

“I’m honoured to even be considered alongside players such as Teuila Fotu-Moala and Krystal Rota, let alone to win this award.

“There are a lot of people I have to thank for their on-going support including my incredible family – without them there is no way I could have dedicated as much time as I did to the sport I love,” she said.

Kiwis Rookie of the Year was won by Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Kiwi #804) who was also a finalist in the top category after bursting onto the international rugby league scene in 2017.

His physicality turned heads at the Rugby League World Cup causing defensive issues for his opposition and World Cup rankings showed he was only second to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck when it came to most carries (56) and metres carried (489).

You can watch the livestream from the Annual Awards function here.

Click here to view the photo gallery from the Awards function.

Winners of all 12 NZRL Awards categories can be found below:

Pirtek Female Volunteer – Chantez Connor (Otaika Eagles/Northland)
Pirtek Male Volunteer – Jack Newson (Hornby Panthers/Southern)
Grassroots Club –Taniwharau (Upper Central)
Domestic Coach – Morgan Kutia (Waikato)
Referee – Chris McMillan (Auckland)
Domestic Player 16s – Christian Tuipulotu (Akarana)
Domestic Player 18s – Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)
Domestic Player Premier – Aaron Jolley (Waikato/Hamilton City Tigers)
Junior Player – Isaiah Papali’I (NZ Warriors)
Kiwis Rookie – Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)
Women’s Player – Apii Nicholls-Pualau (Manurewa Marlins/Counties Manukau)
Kiwis Player – Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (NZ Warriors)

Following a massive season with the Melbourne Storm, Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Kiwi #804) burst onto the international rugby league scene with the Kiwis in 2017. His physicality turned heads at the Rugby League World Cup and has earned him a spot as a finalist for both Kiwis Rookie of the Year and Kiwis Player of the Year.

Finalists have been selected in all 12 NZRL Awards categories, with winners to be announced at an Auckland function on February 10.

Kiwis stalwart Simon Mannering (Kiwi #731) joins Asofa-Solomona and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Kiwi #779) as finalists for the top award while Asofa-Solomona will also face-off for the Kiwis Rookie of the Year title.

The Women’s Player of the Year award will be another heavily contested category with hard-hitter Teuila Fotu-Moala, Women’s Rugby League World Cup Player of the Tournament up against Kiwi Ferns hooker Krystal Rota and fullback Apii Nicholls-Pualau. Rota’s 2017 Auckland Player of the Year accolade will see her as a strong contender as well as Nicholls-Pualau’s dominance at the back for the Kiwi Ferns Rugby League World Cup campaign.

A special recognition award will also honour an individual’s service to the women’s game.

The full list of NZRL Awards finalists is:

Pirtek Female Volunteer – Naioma Chase (Dannevirke Rugby League/Mid Central), Sonyia Anania (Glenora Bears/Akarana), Fipe Fa’amoe Ione(He Tauua/Southern), Alana Lockhurst (Cooks Rugby League/Sothern), Sandra Hickey (Physical Disability RL/Akarana), Jasmine Tuli (Linwood Keas/Sothern), Victoria Malone (Marist Saints/Akarana), Karla Matua (Manurewa Marlins/Counties Manukau), Chantez Connor (Otaika Eagles/Northland), Nicole Baker-Havea (Otahuhu Rugby League/Counties Manukau)

Pirtek Male Volunteer – Nathan Robinson (Country Cowboys/Aoraki/Southern), James Waetford (Ellerslie Eagles/Akarana), Will Harris (Wairau Taniwha/Sotuhern), Willy Simon (Hornby Panthers/Southern), Lawrence Erihe (Linton Cobras/Mid Central), Jack Newson (Hornby Panthers/Southern), Riki Shelford (Portland Rugby League/Northland), Jim Doolan (Otara Scorpians/Counties Manukau), Dennis Stewart (Trentham Titans/Wellington)

Grassroots Club – Northcote Tigers (Akarana), Taniwharau (Upper Central), Dannevirke (Mid Central)

Domestic Coach – Rusty Matua (Auckland), Morgan Kutia (Waikato), Rod Ratu (Auckland)

Referee – Jason Wilson (Canterbury), Chris McMillan (Auckland)

Domestic Player 16s –
Christian Tuipulotu (Akarana), Caius Fa’atili (Southern), Sione Moala (Counties Manukau),

Domestic Player 18s
– Steven Marsters (St George Illawara), Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors),
Seth Tauamiti (Southern), Jonathan Aumua Falelua-Malio (Akarana)

Domestic Player Premier
– Aaron Jolley (Waikato/Hamilton City Tigers), Daniel Reuelu-Buchanan (Akarana Falcons/Glenora Bears), Phil Kingi (Akarana Falcons/Glenora Bears)

Junior Player – Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans), Jarome Luai (Penrith Panthers), Isaiah Papali’I (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Rookie – Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm), Danny Levi (Newcastle Knights), Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters)

Women’s Player – Teuila Fotu-Moala (Otahuhu Leopards/Counties Manukau), Krystal Rota (Manurewa Marlins/Counties Manukau), Apii Nicholls-Pualau (Manurewa Marlins/Counties Manukau)

Kiwis Player –
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (NZ Warriors), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)