North Queensland Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston and the club’s under-20s front-row tyro Viliame Kikau have won major gongs at the 2015 Rugby League Players’ Association awards in Sydney.
Thurston was awarded the Players’ Player Medal for an unprecedented fourth time, while Kikau was named the National Youth Competition Player of the Year.
The honours were announced at the 2015 RLPA Awards staged at Sydney’s Doltone House - Jones Bay Wharf.
The Cowboys’ captain, who also claimed the peer-voted honour in 2005, 2013 and 2014, topped the voting ahead of fellow finalists Ben Hunt (Broncos), Greg Inglis (Rabbitohs), James Tedesco (Tigers) and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Roosters).
Thurston was unable to attend due to preparation for this weekend’s semi-final clash in Townsville but sent his apologies and an acceptance video message.
“In my eyes this is the highest accolade a player can get, to be voted by your peers as the best in your game,” said Thurston. “I am truly humbled and blown away to receive the RLPA Players’ Player Medal for a record fourth time.
“Our game is littered with stars, we’ve got future immortals playing, Smithy (Cameron Smith) GI (Greg Inglis), we’ve got future Origin stars in Ben Hunt and James Tedesco, who have had outstanding seasons, (and) probably one of the best Kiwi fullbacks by the time he finishes his career in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who’s had an outstanding season,” said Thurston in praise of his fellow players and finalists for RLPA Awards.
“As I said I am truly humbled to receive this award,” he said. “(There are a) lot of people I want to thank especially my team mates at club level that work so hard, the hours they put in, I can’t thank them enough. Obviously state and national level as well.
“I’d like to thank my family, my fiancé Samantha and my two kids that have been vital and very supportive throughout my career.”
Thurston also took the opportunity to reinforce his stance on protecting the rights and welfare of rugby league players.
“I’d like to thank the RLPA for their hard work in voicing our concerns on player welfare,” said Thurston. “I think it’s crucial and very important that we stand united as one on this issue.”
The RLPA Rookie of the Year was awarded to Cameron Munster (Storm) who flew up from Melbourne to accept his trophy.
The Players’ Player Medal and Rookie Award are determined by tallying Players votes for their opponents on a 3-2-1 basis after each game of the NRL regular season.
Kikau has an outstanding season in the NYC, scoring 21 tries and rolling over the top of opposition defences with using his size and strength. The 20-year-old was an integral part of the Cowboys NYC team finishing the regular season in second place, and finish that contributed to the Cowboys winning the 2015 club championship.
Queensland’s Billy Moore (17) and Corey Parker (16) along with New South Wales players Danny Buderus (21), Steve Roach (17) and Wayne Pearce (15) were inducted into the RLPA Origin Gold Club presented by Seiko in recognition of at least 15 appearances for their State.
Corey Parker (Brisbane Broncos), Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm) and Anthony Watmough (Parramatta Eels) received the RLPA Milestone Award to mark their achievement of playing 300 first grade games.
Awards were also presented in the RLPA NRL Education and Welfare categories to NYC and NRL Players and Clubs.
Sam Moa (Roosters) was named the RLPA NRL Trade Player of the Year while Bradie Smith (Knights) claimed corresponding NYC award.
David Gower (Eels) and Siliva Havili (Warriors) were joint winners of the RLPA NRL Education Award whilst in the NYC ranks Tyrell Fuimaono (Eels) and Lachlan Lewis (Raiders) shared the honours.
Melbourne Storm was named the RLPA NRL Welfare Club of the Year and the Parramatta Eels earned the RLPA NRL Education Club of the Year award.
Fifteen Players received the RLPA Chairman’s Award to mark their Representative debuts for either Australia or New Zealand.
Making their debut for Australia in the Test against New Zealand on 25 October, 2014 were Josh Mansour, Daniel Tupou, Dylan Walker, Aaron Woods and Aidan Guerra. In the same Test Jason Taumalolo made his Kiwi debut. Suaia Matagimade his debut for New Zealand on 1 November in the Test against Samoa.
Debuting for the Kangaroos against England in 2 November 2014 were Sione Mata’utia, Ben Hunt and David Klemmer while Josh Jackson made his debut for Australia against Samoa on 9 November 2014.
On 3 May this year the Kangaroos welcomed four debutants in the Test against New Zealand in Will Chambers, Josh Dugan, Alex Johnston and Trent Merrin.
Below is the list of winners of the 2015 RLPA Awards:
- RLPA Players' Player Medal - Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys)
- RLPA Rookie of the Year - Cameron Munster (Melbourne Storm)
- RLPA NYC Player of the Year - Viliame Kikau (North Queensland Cowboys)
- RLPA Dennis Tutty Award – Tom Symonds
- One Solutions Australian Representative Player of the Year - Corey Parker
- One Solutions New Zealand Representative Player of the Year - Shaun Johnson
- One Solutions Rest of the World Representative Player of the Year - Josh McGuire – Samoa
- RLPA Milestone Awards (300 Games) – Corey Parker, Cameron Smith Anthony Watmough.
- RLPA Origin Gold Club presented by Seiko – Danny Buderus, Billy Moore, Corey Parker, Wayne Pearce, Steve Roach.
- RLPA NRL Trade Player of the Year - Sam Moa (Roosters)
- RLPA NYC Trade Player of the Year - Bradie Smith (Knights)
- RLPA NRL Education Player of the Year - David Gower (Eels) and Siliva Havili (Warriors)
- RLPA NRL Education Player of the Year - Tyrell Fuimaono (Eels) and Lachlan Lewis (Raiders
- RLPA NRL Welfare Club of the Year - Melbourne Storm
- RLPA NRL Education Club of the Year - Parramatta Eels.