The shortlist for the 2019 Golden Boot has been narrowed down to three and there is still the chance to make history. The award has never gone to a front-rower and/or a non-Tier 1 player before and could this year.
The Golden Boot award is for the best player in international games over the previous 12 months. Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are two of the final three alongside Tonga’s Siosiua Taukeiaho. The winner will be announced on Sunday.
The voting period does include this Saturday’s Test between Great Britain and Papua New Guinea but no player from either side is close to making a late effort.
For the women’s award Jillaroos Ali Brigginshaw and Jess Sergis are shortlisted but England captain Emily Rudge can still have a chance with four tries last weekend against the PNG Orchids and another Test against PNG ahead of the men’s test on Saturday.
The award was initially run by UK magazine Rugby League World (formerly known as Open Rugby) before it was acquired by the RLIF (now IRL) and mixed with their International Player of the Year award in 2018.
The 2018 award was met with criticism with England winger Tommy Makinson winning and the 10-man shortlist for 2019 cause similar reactions in Australia particularly with the exclusion of Dally M and Brad Fittler medal winner James Tedesco.
This can be seen as part of the award’s movement away from being for the ‘best player in the world’ and rather for the ‘best international player of the year’.
With only two matches played and only one of those won Kangaroos players didn’t have much hope of winning and none made the 10-man list.
The voting period started right after the 2018 award so in that time England/Great Britain players and New Zealand players could have reached a maximum of five games with Tonga/Tonga Invitational and Fiji Bati players reaching up to three.
The Kiwis won four of their five, Fiji took three from three and Tonga won two of their three. England/Great Britain, by contrast, have lost all four of their matches this period with one game to go against PNG.
Taukeiaho would be the first player to win from a nation other than Australia, New Zealand or England/Great Britain.
At the same time, it has never been won by a prop, it has been mostly won by playmakers.
This puts Taukeiaho and Waerea-Hargreaves in line to be the first. Many consider Tuivasa-Sheck to be the favourite with his fantastic performances in the four matches he played for New Zealand this year.
A win for him would make him the first Kiwi to win since Shaun Johnson in 2014 and the first fullback since Billy Slater in 2008.