Fisher-Harris, Hale voted Golden Boot winners

Jasper Bruce |

James Fisher-Harris (c) has added rugby league’s Golden Ball to NZ’s 2023 Pacific title success.
James Fisher-Harris (c) has added rugby league’s Golden Ball to NZ’s 2023 Pacific title success.

James Fisher-Harris has become the first prop forward to win rugby league’s Golden Boot award for best international player.

The famously stoic New Zealand representative came into his own as a leader in 2023 as he captained the Kiwis to a surprise victory in the Pacific Championships.

New Zealand’s 30-0 drubbing of Australia in the tournament final last month was the Kangaroos’ biggest-ever loss and it was Fisher-Harris who set the standard for his forward pack.

The 27-year-old averaged 137 run metres a game across the Pacific Championships, starring in his first three matches since replacing Jesse Bromwich as New Zealand’s captain.

A selection panel comprising retired internationals Adam Blair, James Graham, Darren Lockyer, Adrian Morley and Ruben Wiki selected Fisher-Harris as the winner, ahead of Kiwis teammate Joseph Tapine, Kangaroos prop Payne Haas and England halfback Harry Smith.

“I can’t think of a better bloke to take out such a prestigious award,” outgoing Kiwis coach Michael Maguire said. 

“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.”

Penrith prop Fisher-Harris adds the award to a bulging trophy cabinet that also features three premiership rings and two Dally M Prop of the Year gongs.

New Zealand forward Georgia Hale (centre).
Georgia Hale (centre) helped drive the Kiwi Ferns to Pacific Championship success over Australia. (AP PHOTO)

There was double delight for New Zealand, as Georgia Hale became the first forward to win the women’s Golden Boot after the Kiwi Ferns waged their own upset win over Australia in their Pacific Championships final.

Gold Coast’s captain in the NRLW, Hale made more tackles than any other player in the six-point win, and ran for more metres than any forward.

“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,” Kiwi Ferns coach Rick Henry said.

“She is a professional on and off the field.”

Jeremy Bourson became France’s first recipient of a Golden Boot award, becoming the third winner of the wheelchair division first presented in 2019.