Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson faces strong challenges from national captain Simon Mannering and prop Jesse Bromwich for 2014 NZ Kiwis Player of the Year.
The international player categories will attract most attention at next Wednesday’s NZ Rugby League Awards function at Auckland’s Floating Pavilion.
Johnson was a Kiwis standout during last year’s Four Nations triumph and received the prestigious Golden Boot from Rugby League World magazine in December.
But his achievements in the black jersey will have been weighed against Mannering’s outstanding form across the entire season, when he was named Vodafone Warriors Player of the Year for the fourth time, and Bromwich’s elevation among the best front rowers in the game.
The awards panel have voted on their finalists in each of the 11 keenly contested categories.
Honours for Kiwis Rookie of the Year came down to a contest among fullback Peta Hiku, second row Jason Taumalolo and prop Marty Taupau, all big contributors to the Four Nations success.
In a year when new Kiwi Ferns coach Rusty Matua introduced several rookies to the national team, veteran Sarina Fiso is up against newcomers Teuila Fotu-Moala and Atawhai Tupaea for Women’s Player of the Year.
With a spotlight on women’s contribution to rugby league next week, fittingly, the female volunteer category attracted the most nominations, while 18s Player of the Year proved to be the closest call.
Finalists for the player categories are:
Kiwis Player of the Year – Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Shaun Johnson (NZ Warriors), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors)
Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles), Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers)
Junior Player of the Year – Bradley Abbey (NZ Warriors), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm), Sam Lisone (NZ Warriors)
16s Player of the Year – Dylan Clark (Upper Central), Rory Ferguson (Southern), Morgan Harper (Upper Central)
18s Player of the Year – Erin Clark (Akarana), Reuben Porter (Akarana), Ken Tofilau (Southern)
Domestic Player of the Year – Jethro Friend (Counties Manukau), Ken Tofilau (Southern), Cody Walker (Akarana)
Women’s Player of the Year – Sarina Fiso (Counties Manukau), Teuila Fotu-Moala (Counties Manukau), Atawhai Tupaea (Counties Manukau)
Awards will also be presented for Match Official of the Year, Male & Female Volunteer of the Year and Grassroots Club of the Year.