23rd November, 2021
The end of the rugby league year is wrapping up, which means it is time for the 2021 NZRL Awards, where the country’s best rugby league talent is celebrated.
This year, NZRL has introduced the first-ever Kiwis People’s Choice Award. This means you, the fans, have the chance to choose who you rightly believe deserves the top individual honour as the best New Zealand player in the game.
2021 presented another year without international fixtures, so this year’s Kiwis awards are based solely on how players performed for their respective professional clubs, whether in the NRL, SuperLeague etc.
Many Kiwi talents showed their class and superstardom in the 2021 NRL season, such as Second-rower of the year Isaiah Papali’i and premiership winner James Fisher-Harris. Melbourne’s halfback and hooker duo of Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith should not be dismissed as well, so the choice will not be an easy one.
Former Junior Kiwi Captain Isaiah Papali’i produced a breakout year for his new club, averaging 150 metres per game whilst making 809 tackles and scoring seven tries. Papali’i earned himself a contract at the Tigers from 2023 onwards after taking home the Dally M Second-Row of the year award.
Arguably the best prop in the game for a few years now, James Fisher-Harris was his consistent best. The Whangarei Marist junior averaged 154 metres per game and 100 post-contact metres; his tireless work rate and leadership led his Penrith side to a classic grand final victory at Suncorp Stadium. JFH’s efforts were justified as he received his second straight Dally M Prop of the Year, cementing himself as one of rugby league’s best.
Another viable candidate includes Melbourne’s barnstorming #9 Brandon Smith. “Hectic Cheese” set up ten tries and scored 11 of his own, and even kicked the NRL’s first-ever 20/40. Smith, like his compatriots, was rewarded with a position on the Dally M team of the year at hooker outplaying his competition.
Don’t forget about Jahrome Hughes, the former Titan and Cowboy solidified himself as not just one of the best halves in the game but one of its best players. After moving from Hooker to fullback, Hughes spent this season as Melbourne’s #7 and repaid Craig Bellamy’s faith in him with nine tries, 19 try assists and 13 line-break assists. He steered Melbourne around the park and directed them to a record-tying 19 victories on the bounce.
Voting closes on Monday 29th November, finalists will be narrowed down!
See your People’s Choice Kiwi of the year in action in June 2022!