The latest winner of the hotly-anticipated 2017 Golden Boot award will be announced in less than 48 hours time.
The award, which recognises the hard work and impressive performances of one player during the 2017 calendar year, will be given out at a Gala Finals Luncheon in Brisbane on Wednesday, in the build-up to Saturday’s World Cup Final between England and Australia.
Here at ‘Nothing But League’, we will be profiling the four contenders for the award, and will decide who we think will follow in the footsteps of Cooper Cronk and claim the most prestigious individual honour in Rugby League.
Contender One- Jermaine McGillvary
“Jerry” has had a spectacular outing in the 2017 World Cup, playing a pivotal role in England’s journey to the final. His rampaging runs and hard work in defense have made him a standout player for Wayne Bennett’s side, and any chance of success in Saturday’s showpiece finale will no doubt be influenced by the try-scoring Yorkshireman.
Having scored his seventh try of the World Cup in England’s narrow 20-18 victory over Tonga, McGillvary has proved on the international stage that he can produce his best performances in the moments that matter.
Reports have surfaced suggesting that NRL clubs are trying to prise the 29-year old away from Super League side Huddersfield Giants, but the prolific winger is going to be a crucial part of Giants coach Rick Stone’s silverware hopes going forward into 2018.
He has had the year of his life, but World Cup glory and a Golden Boot to match will be the icing on the cake for this special player.
Contender Two- Cameron Smith
It is little surprise that the 34-year old Melbourne Storm has made his way onto the four-man shortlist for the Golden Boot award.
During the 2017 NRL season, Smith overtook Australian superstar Darren Lockyer to become the most capped NRL player of all time, and continued his pursuit of glory by captaining Melbourne Storm to yet another Grand Final victory.
He may be reaching the latter stages of his career, but the Australian hooker is a crucial part of Mal Meninga’s squad aiming to win back-to-back World Cups.
His calming presence on the pitch has given licence for his younger Kangaroo team-mates to roam free, and he is surely deserving of yet another personal accolade.
How timely would it be if Smith could claim the coveted prize, ten years after the legend of Rugby League claimed the Golden Boot award for the very first time.
Contender 3- Jason Taumalolo
The fact that North Queensland Cowboys gave the 24-year old loose-forward a TEN year contract at the beginning of March speaks volumes about how much of a superstar Taumalolo is expected to be in the years ahead.
That being said, the barnstorming forward has proven, both during his 26 starts for the Cowboys during 2017 and his exceptional showing for Tonga at the World Cup, that he is already one of the hottest properties around, and he would surely merit this recognition for his immense performances.
When Tonga defeated New Zealand to become the first tier two national to defeat a tier one nation in 20 years, many singled out Taumalolo as a driving force behind his national team’s revolution, following his defection from the Kiwi’s prior to the tournament.
The young man, who won the Dally M Medal in 2016, has shown maturity well beyond his years in recent months, and his presence has helped to catapult Tonga into their position as one of the dark horses of Rugby League in the years ahead.
At such a young age, he has his best seasons ahead of him, despite almost guiding Tonga to a remarkable spot in this year’s final. It is truly frightening to think of how impressive a player he could be in just three or four years time.
Contender Four- Suliasi Vunivalu
If you think that Taumalolo is one of the hottest prospects around, then you must also take a look at 22-year old Vunivalu.
The flying Fijian has shown himself to be prolific try scorer, topping the try charts in the NRL last season with 23 tries, and has been one of a string of incredible young talents coming through the Melbourne Storm’s ranks.
With a winners medal from the 2017 NRL Grand Final, Vunivalu has already had a year to remember, not to mention helping Fiji to a remarkable victory over New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals.
His record of one-and-a-half tries per game for Fiji is nothing short of astounding and, given how he has performed during the tournament, he has surely been one of the best wingers of the whole World Cup.
If it wasn’t for the try-scoring exploits of Australia’s Valentine Holmes, we would be talking a lot more about the finishing prowess of this young man.
Nevertheless, he has cemented himself as the new man to watch out for on the world stage, and is destined for greatness, whether that be on a club scale at AAMI Park, or being a pillar behind the new era of Fijian Rugby League.
4th- Jermaine McGillvary
3rd- Suliasi Vunivalu
2nd- Jason Taumalolo
1st- Cameron Smith