Sharks stars Ronaldo Mulitalo and Tiana Penitani have been recognised for their outstanding international performances with prestigious 2023 IRL Golden Boot nominations.
Awarded annually to the best player in sanctioned international games, this year's men's and women's IRL Golden Boot recipients will be decided by esteemed panels of Test greats and announced in early December.
Mulitalo was crucial to New Zealand's recent Pacific Championships triumph with four tries in three games, including one in the historic 30-0 final win over Australia.
Ronaldo opens the scoring for the Kiwis
The wholehearted winger is long-listed with the likes of Kiwi teammates Jahrome Hughes, James Fisher-Harris, Joe Tapine and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, as well as Australians Harry Grant, Payne Haas, Cameron Murray and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
The 24-year-old is building a brilliant record on the world stage, having played one match for Samoa in 2019 before debuting for the Kiwis last year.
Mulitalo's latest Test efforts followed another consistent campaign for the Sharks, scoring 21 tries in 23 matches to further establish himself as an elite finisher.
For Penitani, the nomination caps a terrific season in which she captained the inaugural Sharks NRLW team and was crowned the club's Player of the Year.
Having previously played for Australia, Penitani represented her Tongan heritage for the first time in the Pacific Championships. Lining up in the unfamiliar role of halfback, she scored twice in a creditable 28-10 loss to New Zealand.
A proud day for Penitani
Originally presented to the "best player in the world", incorporating both club and representative efforts, the Golden Boot criteria was changed by the IRL in 2017 to only include international performances.
The men's IRL Golden Boot winner will be chosen by Golden Cap recipients Darren Lockyer (Australia), Adrian Morley (England), Ruben Wiki (New Zealand), James Graham (England) and Adam Blair (New Zealand), who are among just nine players to have played 50 internationals for their country.
Meanwhile, the women’s IRL Golden Boot winner will be selected by Jillaroos legend Karyn Murphy, former New Zealand dual-code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.
Short lists for the men's, women's and wheelchair 2023 IRL Golden Boot awards will be announced after the second wheelchair international between last year’s World Cup winners England and runners-up France in Carcassonne on November 25.
"There has been more international rugby league played in recent months than any other period in recent memory outside of a World Cup year and players have again demonstrated their passion for representing their countries of birth or heritage," IRL chair Troy Grant said.
"It is a sign of how competitive the game is at international level that the three World Cup champions – the Kangaroos, Jillaroos and England Wheelchair – were all recently beaten in gripping contests that showcased rugby league at its best."
New Zealand's Joey Manu won the men's Golden Boot in 2022, with Kiwi Ferns representative Raecene McGregor taking out women's award.
Men's 2023 Golden Boot
- Matty Ashton (England)
- John Bateman (England)
- Jahream Bula (Fiji)
- Su’a Faalogo (Samoa)
- James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand)
- Addin Fonua-Blake (Tonga)
- Harry Grant (Australia)
- Payne Haas (Australia)
- Jahrome Hughes (New Zealand)
- Edwin Ipape (Papua New Guinea)
- Tui Kamikamica (Fiji)
- Lachlan Lam (Papua New Guinea)
- Mikey Lewis (England)
- Esan Marsters (Cook Islands)
- Ronaldo Mulitalo (New Zealand)
- Cameron Murray (Australia)
- Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (New Zealand)
- Harry Smith (England)
- Hamiso Tabuia-Fidow (Australia)
- Joey Tapine (New Zealand)
Women's 2023 Golden Boot
- Elisa Akpa (France)
- Toru Arakua (Cook Islands)
- Lauréane Biville (France)
- Belinda Gwasamun (Papua New Guinea)
- Georgia Hale (New Zealand)
- Amy Hardcastle (England)
- Mele Hufanga (New Zealand)
- Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)
- Apii Nicholls (New Zealand)
- Annetta-Claudia Nu'uausala (Samoa)
- Tiana Penitani (Tonga)
- Georgia Roche (England)
- Jess Sergis (Australia)
- Tamika Upton (Australia)