James Fisher-Harris, Georgia Hale and Jérémy Bourson have each created Golden Boot history after being chosen as the respective 2023 men’s, women’s and wheelchair winners.
Fisher-Harris is the first prop to win the prestigious award since its inception in 1984 and will add the IRL Golden Boot to the Pacific Cup medal he received after leading the Kiwis to a record 30-0 defeat of the Kangaroos and his third consecutive NRL premiership ring with Penrith.
The New Zealand captain was presented with the 2023 IRL Golden Boot by 2000 winner and two-times World Cup winning Kangaroos captain Brad Fittlerat an event in Sydney on Wednesday.
Hale, who is the first forward to win the women’s award, and Bourson – France’s first Golden Boot recipient in any discipline of the game – are both based in the Northern Hemisphere and were unable to attend.
The IRL Golden Boot is awarded each year to the best player in sanctioned rugby league international matches.
Fisher-Harris was chosen by a panel comprising of Golden Cap recipients Adam Blair, James Graham, Darren Lockyer, Adrian Morley and Ruben Wiki, who are among just nine players to have played more than 50 internationals for their country.
Previous Golden Boot winners Stacey Jones, Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Joey Manu were among the many current and former Kiwis to pay tribute to Fisher-Harris.
Michael Maguire, who had charge of Fisher-Harris in all but one of his 15 appearances for New Zealand, including the Pacific Championships triumph, and members of his coaching staff, also sent messages of congratulations.
“I can't think of a better bloke to take out such a prestigious award,” Maguire said. “It’s thoroughly deserved.
“In our time together, over the years, I have watched you grow from that young player to winning grand finals and now leading the Kiwis to an emphatic win against Australia, and creating a bit of history.
“You led right from the front, right from the time you walked into the month of the campaign that we had together. You're an absolute champion with the way you go about things, and there's a lot of reasons why you're such a success in rugby league.
“What an award to have. You have now created a little piece of history for yourself in the international space, along with such a great win.”
Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry was emotional as he told Hale she had been chosen by a panel of Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy, Kiwi dual code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.
“I don’t think this award could go to a player more deserving than Georgia,” Henry said. “She is a professional on and off the field.
“Georgia does the things that other players don’t want to do on the footy field; the things that people don’t get rewarded for or recognised for.
“We know that she is a really hard worker but the biggest growth in her game has been her football IQ and that has made her the player she is today.
“This is a reward for everything you have done for rugby league, for yourself, for your family and for us in the Kiwi Ferns environment. You are a massive role model for all the young girls playing rugby league in New Zealand and Australia.”
Hale, who helped the Kiwi Ferns to a gritty 12-6 defeat of the Jillaroos, edged team-mate Mele Hufanga and rival fullbacks Tamika Upton and Apii Nichollsto become the second successive New Zealander to win the Golden Boot after Raecene McGregor.
The award caps a year in which the 28-year-old lock played both in the Women’s Super League and NRLW, helping the Gold Coast Titans to the club’s inaugural grand final and the Kiwi Ferns to their first win against the Jillaroos since 2016.
“I play rugby league to win premierships or championships or World Cups, so to receive such an accolade like this is a very proud moment and I think of how proud I am to be a Kiwi Fern and to represent the Ferns before and the Ferns to come,” Hale said.
“It’s been a special year. I started my journey in 2023 here at Leeds Rhinos, which I was so fortunate to be a part of, and then was really excited to be able to return home to the Gold Coast and have such a proud season with our Titans girls.
“Then to finish off my season representing the Kiwi Ferns, breaking a seven-year drought back with the girls from back at home, just really put the icing on the cake but I don’t think you can ever be satisfied with what you have done.
“I am just really excited to see what the next steps are for me personally in my career and also with all the teams that I am so fortunate to take the field with.
Fisher-Harris continued the Kiwis’ recent stranglehold on the Golden Boot after Tuivasa-Sheck won in 2019 and Manu received the award last year, with the trophy not awarded in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of Covid.
He won the award from Kiwis team-mate Joseph Tapine, Kangaroos prop Payne Haas and English halfback Harry Smith, who were shortlisted by the panel from 20 international players nominated by members of the media in Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
The wheelchair 2023 IRL Golden Boot was chosen by 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.
Bourson and England’s Lewis King were shortlisted after two recent internationals between last year’s World Cup finalists, with France triumphing in Leeds and England winning in Marseilles.
The Frenchman received the award in Perpignan from last year’s winner, England’s Seb Bechara, whom he plays alongside at Catalans Dragons.
“It’s a great honour for me,” Bourson said. “There have only been three winners and I am the first Frenchman. It’s important to remember. A lot of people will really like seeing that and I’ll never forget this achievement.
“The next step for the French team is the World Cup, which we have already started preparing for. My singular aim is, very simply, to win the World Cup and the Golden Boot in 2026.”
IRL Chair Troy Grant congratulated Fisher-Harris, Hale and Bourson on their achievements as international player of the year.
“You only need to hear from their coaches and team-mates to know that James, Georgia and Jérémy are deserved winners of the Golden Boot and worthy of having their names alongside some of the greats of our game,” he said.
“Each played a significant role in the achievements of their team at international level this season, in which all three of last year’s World Cup winners were beaten, and they have now created personal history.
“On behalf of the IRL Board, I would like to congratulate the winners, all of the players who were nominated and the members of the judging panels whose status and achievements in the game ensure the Golden Boot remains one of the most prestigious awards in Rugby League.”
IRL Golden Boot Roll of Honour
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)
2023 James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand)
2018 Isabelle Kelly (Australia)
2019 Jess Sergis (Australia)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)
2023 Georgia Hale (New Zealand)
2019 Jack Brown (England)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Sebastien Bechara (England)
2023 Jérémy Bourson (France)