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Aussies snubbed in league Golden Boot
Steve Jancetic
17:05 AEST Fri Jan 4 2013

It's an argument as old as the game itself, but the naming of Englishman Kevin Sinfield as rugby league's best of 2012 is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows back in Australia.

Sinfield, the Leeds and England skipper who led the Rhinos to a sixth Super League title in nine seasons, became just the fourth Englishman to be awarded the Golden Boot - the unofficial prize for the code's player of the year.

It is an honour bestowed by Rugby League World magazine since 1984, having been taken out by some of the game's greats including Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer.

More recently, Cameron Smith, Benji Marshall, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston have all been honoured.

In 2012, Sinfield captained Leeds to a World Club Challenge win over Manly and overcame a sickening head knock to produce a man-of-the-match performance in the Rhinos' grand final win over Warrington.

The 32-year-old has enjoyed a decorated career in the Old Dart but, despite big wraps, has largely struggled to make an impact at Test level, especially against Australia's Kangaroos.

England did not play Australia in 2012, their only internationals being against France and Wales.

Australian skipper Smith was again on the shortlist, having completed the trifecta of leading his club, (Melbourne), state (Queensland) and country (against New Zealand) to a clean sweep of trophies.

Also on the shortlist was his Storm teammate Cooper Cronk, the NRL grand final man of the match and Queensland hero after stepping seamlessly into the boots of the retired Lockyer to kick the State of Origin series-clinching field goal for the Maroons.

Then there was Ben Barba, who took the NRL by storm in 2012 with a series of breathtaking displays for Canterbury, though his chances would have been harmed by his inability to break into representative football.

Sinfield is the first Englishman to win the award since Andy Farrell in 2004, with Ellery Hanley (1988) and Garry Schofield (1990) the only other of his countrymen to take the honour.

"The British game can and does still produce individuals of world-class ability," Rugby League World editor John Drake told the Press Association.

"Kevin Sinfield is one such player and it is right that his towering achievements in 2012 should be recognised with the Golden Boot."

Martyn Sadler, chairman of League Publications Ltd, added: "In the grand final, Sinfield kicked five out of five, from all over the pitch, and that after he had been knocked out earlier by a challenge to the head.

"What he did in that game goes beyond what could reasonably be expected, even of a Golden Boot winner.

"Twice injured with brutal clashes that epitomise the sport, he simply shrugged off those knocks, got up and got on with his own game, setting an example for his colleagues to follow."