The 2011 King Of Rugby League Awards

It is a sad day in Rugby League today with news of the passing of Queensland and Australian Rugby League legend Arthur Beetson.

I met Beetson once at a function at St Marys Rugby League club. I got a few autographs and he signed off with “Enjoy The Game”. That pretty much summed up the man, his life was Rugby League and he just wanted people to enjoy Rugby League.

So today, as the King Of Rugby League Awards get announced, lets all take a moment to think of Big Artie, a true legend of the game.

This years King Of Rugby League Awards have been really interesting to judge. Throughout the season I am always thinking about what the games top players are doing, what they are achieving and how they are playing.

Unlike with some other awards, there is no panel, there are no votes. I am the judge, jury and executioner.

These awards take into account every single event that happens in Rugby League across the world. Exhibition games, club games and representative games played on both sides of the planet.

So, lets do this!

Biggest Story: The Implosion Of The Manly Sea Eagles After Winning The Grand Final
After a year in which “Fortress Brookvale” took a seige mentality towards everyone and anything, the Manly Sea Eagles went on to claim the NRL Grand Final.

Less than 24 hours later news came out that William Hopoate had decided to sign for the Parramatta Eels when he comes back from his Mormon Mission. Then, Des Hasler was being targeted by the Bulldogs. Eventually, they got their man, and the Manly board broke out into a very public war. Hasler was then sacked immediately amid claims he was trying to poach Manly staff and player. While this was all happening, the Sea Eagles were losing staff on almost a daily basis.

The club fell apart in a very public way, unlike anything we have ever seen from a team who had just won the Grand Final.

Representative Player Of The Year: Paul Gallen
Pushed hard by the likes of Cameron Smith and Sam Thaiday, however it is very hard to look past Gallen when you look at how well he played and his work rate in teams that didn’t always win.

Team Of The Year: Melbourne Storm
Left with a team that was gutted after the salary cap scandal of 2010, few expected much out of the Melbourne Storm. In what was probably Craig Bellemy’s greatest coaching performance, the Storm managed to win the Minor Premiership, unearth a number of good youngsters, and showed why they are the best club when its comes to talent identification, development and playing to a set game plan.

Rookie Of The Year: Shaun Johnson
It’s not often that you hear about a young bloke that a club is trying to bring along as slowly as possible, and then boom, he explodes onto the scene and you know he is going to be a top player in the game.

Shaun Johnson’s already have a highlight reel many veteran players would be envious of. His speed and acceleration are only matches by his ability to ball player like the great Benji Marshall.

I still think it is way too early to rule out the possibility that somehow, some way, this young bloke qualifies to play for New South Wales and should be playing in Sky Blue come State Of Origin time (Please….I need this….)!

The King Of Rugby League Award: Paul Gallen
What an incredible year by Gallen. Playing in a Sharks team that was terrible all season, Gallen was a stand out every single week. He could easily decide to leave, and no one would begrudge him that, but he is focused on staying at the Sharks and being a building block for the future.

Gallens performance at State Of Origin level, where he was moved to prop, was super human. He was easily the best player in the NSW team and even though Queensland won yet another series, the Maroons were full of praise for Gallens performance.

At test level, Gallen continued that form. It didn’t get as much coverage as it should have, but his performance in the Four Nations was unbelievable.

He played so well and go through so much work this year that, you almost wonder how much of a toll that physical output will have on the longevity of his career. I have never seen a forward player sell well over the course of an entire season, playing well above his weight, and dominating world class opponents the way Gallen did in 2011. He was absolutely relentless and is a worthy recipient of the title of the 2011 King Of Rugby League.

So there you have it, the only awards that really matter!

You can see a list of past award winners by going here: The King Of Rugby League Awards

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