James Fisher-Harris and Georgia Hale make history as 2023 Golden Boot winners

File / Whakaata Māori

International rugby league history has been made by the 2023 Golden Boot winners James Fisher-Harris, Georgia Hale and Jérémy Bourson.

The win for Kiwis captain Fisher-Harris (Ngāpuhi) caps off a stellar 2023, winning his third straight NRL Premiership with the Penrith Panthers and taking skipper duties for the first time in the Kiwis jersey, which he helped lead his team to a Pacific Cup medal.

His leadership in the Kiwis proved instrumental in the Pacific Cup final, dismantling trans-Tasman rivals the Kangaroos in a record 30-0 victory - the biggest victory over Australia to date.

JFH’s win makes him the first prop in almost 40 years of Golden Boot history, joining the likes of past Kiwi winners Stacey Jones, Benji Marshall, Shaun Johnson, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Joseph Manu - all of whom paid tribute to the sixth Kiwi Golden Boot winner.

In a presser, Kiwis coach Michael Maguire gave praise to Fisher-Harris, saying, “I can’t think of a better bloke to take out such a prestigious award”.

“In our time together, over the years, I have watched you grow from that young player to winning grand finals and now leading the Kiwis to an emphatic win against Australia, creating a bit of history.

‘Led right from the front’

“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.”

Considering the talent in the men’s shortlist like Kiwis teammate Joseph Tapine, Australian powerhouse Payne Haas and English league halfback Harry Smith, Fisher-Harris’ win adds not only to his incredible resume but also to New Zealand rugby league history.

Although the women’s roll of honour is short, dating back to 2018, Georgia Hale’s win is back-to-back for New Zealand, following 2022 recipient Raecene McGregor.

Hale is also the first forward to win the Golden Boot.

“I don’t think this award could go to a player more deserving than Georgia,” Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry said. “She is a professional on and off the field.

“Georgia does the things other players don’t want to do on the footy field; the things that people don’t get rewarded for or recognised for.”

Busy 2023

Hale, who led her side to a hard-fought 12-6 victory over the Jillaroos in Pacific Cup action this year, defeated opposition fullbacks Tamika Upton and Apii Nicholls as well as teammate Mele Hufanga in the running to win.

The Golden Boot encapsulates a very busy 2023 in which the 28-year-old lock played in the women’s Super League in the UK and NRLW, assisting the Kiwi Ferns to their first victory over the Jillaroos since 2016 and the Gold Coast Titans to their first grand final as a team.

She was also co-captain for the Kiwi Ferns alongside Raecene McGregor.

Jérémy Bourson, who is the wheelchair Golden Boot winner, is the first French player to win a Golden Booth across any of the three league disciplines.

Public Interest Journalism