New Zealand’s Joey Manu and Raecene McGregor, and England’s Sebastien Bechara, are the 2022 IRL Golden Boot winners as the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair International Player of the Year.
Manu, McGregor and Bechara received the Golden Boot awards in Manchester on Tuesday after a comprehensive judging process involving former Test greats, rugby league pioneers and members of the media.
Golden Cap recipient Adrian Morley, who is one of just nine players to have played 50 or more Tests, presented the Men’s Golden Boot to Manu – the sixth Kiwi to win the award since its inception in 1984.
McGregor is the first New Zealander to be awarded the Women’s Golden Boot, which was introduced in 2018 and won by Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly, who passed the honour to team-mate Jessica Sergis the following year.
The Wheelchair Golden Boot was introduced in 2019, with Bechara’s England team-mate Jack Brown being the inaugural winner but due to COVID the award has not been presented for the past two years.
Manu has been a revelation at fullback for the Kiwis – a position he doesn’t usually play for the Sydney Roosters – and was a stand-out in the mid-season Test against Tonga, as well as each of New Zealand’s World Cup matches.
Significantly, McGregor and Bechara also played mid-season Tests and their performances helped them to edge out Golden Boot rivals.
“The IRL Golden Boot is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in rugby league, and recognises performances at international level,” said IRL chair Troy Grant.
“In the past it has been won by some of the greatest players to have played the game, such as Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Ellery Hanley, Andy Farrell, Peter Sterling, Andrew Johns, Benji Marshall, Stacey Jones, Darren Lockyer, Johnathon Thurston and Cameron Smith. Now Joey, Raecene and Sebastien join them after each producing a series of outstanding performances for their nations, from the mid-season internationals to the World Cup.
Smith (Australia), Graham (England and Great Britain) and Wiki (New Zealand), who are Golden Cap recipients, helped selected Manu as the Men’s Golden Boot winner after a panel of journalists and commentators chose a short list of candidates.
Manu ran a world record 401 metres with the ball in New Zealand’s mid-season Test against Tonga and has ran more than 300 metres in each of his five World Cup appearances.
“On behalf of the IRL, I would like to congratulate Joey, Raecene and Sebastien, as well as the players who were selected on the short lists for the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Golden Boot awards.
“In each case, the stand-out performances of the winner in the mid-season Test gave them an edge over other contenders coming into the World Cup, which may have helped to decide the awards.
“I would also like to thank all who helped participate in the judging process, including giants of the international game, Cameron Smith, Honey Hireme-Smiler, James Graham, Karen Murphy and Ruben Wiki.”
The Women’s Golden Boot was chosen by a panel, which included Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns greats Murphy and Hireme-Smiler, commentator and former England star Danika Priim, refereeing pioneer Julia Lee, and members of the media.
McGregor’s award caps a stunning year for the Kiwi Ferns halfback, who was without a contract for the postponed 2021 NRLW season until winning player-of-the match for the Māori All Stars.
After helping Sydney Roosters to the NRLW Premiership early in the year, she was awarded the Dally M Medal as the best player of the 2022 NRLW season.
The Women’s Golden Boot award was presented to McGregor, who was accompanied by sister and Test team-mate Page, by long serving RFL executive and RLWC2021 director Karen Moorhouse.
Bechara has also been consistently one of the best players every time he has played, starring in England’s mid-season Test win over France, who they will again meet in the World Cup final at Manchester Central on Friday night.
He edged England teammate Jack Brown, who is based in Australia and did not play the mid-season Test, and France’s Jérémy Bourson.
The IRL Wheelchair Golden Boot was presented by Wheelchair Rugby League pioneer, Malcolm Kielty, MBE, who was on a panel of officials, coaches, referees and members of the media to choose the award.