It finished with a devastating injury, however in a positive end to his 2020 season Shaun Johnson has taken away the inaugural Porter-Gallen Medal as the Sharks Pontifex Jewellers Player of the Year.
With Paul Gallen and the family of the late Monty Porter in attendance to present the medal bearing their names, Johnson was rewarded for a year in which he helped pilot the Sharks into the top eight, only for a ruptured Achilles two weeks from the finals to sour his season while putting a massive dent in his teams premiership aspirations.
In returning to the form which had seen him win the 2014 Golden Boot as the world’s best player, with an NRL-leading 23 try assists and a committed defensive attitude, one highlighted by a spectacular tackle against the Eels in round 17, Johnson was the standout choice as the Sharks best during the 2020 season.
Recently a father for the first time, the unfortune Achilles injury notwithstanding, on a personal level Johnson enjoyed an outstanding 2020.
“This is the first player of the year award in my career, so I'm really proud,” Johnson said. "I'm very lucky to have come to a club that is very accepting and make me feel a part of the family. Bomber and his coaching staff have made me believe again and feel really confident in my capabilities and what I'm able to do. I've never been happier in my career to turn up every day and to try and get better."
Also nominated for the Player of the Year award was try-scoring freak Sione Katoa, along with 2020 newcomers Siosifa Talakai and Toby Rudolf.
In addition to the major award, Johnson was also named Members Player of the Year and his try-saver on Mitchell Moses in atrocious conditions at Kogarah Jubilee in round 17, where he chased down the runaway Eels half back, was chosen as the Tackle of the Year.
In recognising his exceptional first season in Cronulla colours Talakai was a worthy winner of the Tommy Bishop Player’s Player award, while equally deserving was Rudolf, who in his debut NRL season played 20 of 21 games and led the way up front with his energetic defence and strong charges with the football.
Rudolf was named the Steve Rogers Rookie of the Year ahead of four others to debut in the NRL in 2020 in Braydon Trindall, Jackson Ferris, Daniel Vasquez and Teig Wilton.
Other winners included Ronaldo Mulitalo taking out the Sharks Have Heart Community Award, Connor Tracey for Try of the Year for his game-clinching effort against the Broncos, with Aaron Woods and Braden Hamlin Uele recognised for playing every game of the 2020 season with Iron Man awards.
In an commendable effort from the two big men, both Woods and Hamlin-Uele played all 21 matches on the year, 19 weeks straight after the season resumed following the COVID shut down.
In acknowledging a player or players who show compassion and care towards teammates and staff, while displaying commitment off the field by way of study and educational engagement, Mulitalo and Cameron King received Wellbeing and Educational Excellence awards.
King was also farewelled by the Sharks after announcing his retirement from the NRL earlier in the week.
Sharks Football Operations Manager Mark Noakes was singled out as the Andrew Ettingshausen Club Person of the Year in a reward for his tireless and diligent efforts in steering the team through the challenges of the COVID bubble throughout the season.
The Sharks Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership team was also recognised and celebrated for their solid 2020 campaign, one which saw them bundled out a week shy of the Grand Final, with Maddie Studdon the Coaches Award winner and hard-working lock Kaarla Cowan the Player of the Year.
With former Sharks legend Brett Kimmorley acting as event MC, the presentation night also included a welcoming address from CEO Dino Mezzatesta, while coach John Morris talked through the 2020 season and his hopes and aspirations for next year.
2020 Sharks Awards
Porter-Gallen Medallist and Pontifex Player of the Year
Tommy Bishop Players Player
Steve Rogers Rookie of the Year
Andrew Ettingshausen Club Person of the Year
Members Player of the Year
Sharks Have Heart Community Award
Try of the Year
Connor Tracey – round 12 v Broncos
Tackle of the Year
Shaun Johnson – round 17 v Eels
Wellbeing and Education Excellence Award
Cameron King and Ronaldo Mulitalo
Sharks Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership
Player of the Year