Saints great James Graham has been nominated for the most prestigious individual prize in world rugby league.
Graham, who left Saints for the NRL with the Canterbury Bulldogs, is joined on the shortlist for the Golden Boot award by union-bound compatriot Sam Burgess, Australian duo Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston, and Kiwi pair Shaun Johnson and Jesse Bromwich.
Burgess and eventual winner Thurston were also among the six nominees last year.
The same 13-man panel that chose Thurston will again vote for the winner and the World XIII, which will both be revealed in next month’s Rugby League World, out on Friday, December 19.
The panel is assembled from both sides of the world, and includes representatives from Australia, England, France and New Zealand. Among them is former Golden Boot winner Garry Schofield, ex-Great Britain coach Brian Noble and past Kiwi internationals Robbie Hunter-Paul and Daryl Halligan.
They are joined by leading journalists Dave Hadfield, Martyn Sadler, Dave Woods, Brad Walter, Louis Bonnery, Malcolm Andrews, Mitch Dale, Andrew Voss and Steve Mascord.
The votes will be submitted during the first week in December.
“These are the six players who we feel have had the biggest impact on the sport during 2014,” Rugby League World editor Gareth Walker explained.
“Four of the contenders enjoyed outstanding Four Nations campaigns, including Shaun Johnson and Jesse Bromwich in the victorious New Zealand side. Johnson was the Kiwis’ go-to player throughout and produced a man of the match performance in the final, while Bromwich was statistically the leading forward by some distance both in the whole competition and in the Wellington decider against Australia.
“Greg Inglis had a superb domestic season and then stepped up to the plate with several of his most experienced teammates missing through injury for the Kangaroos, scoring in each group game. James Graham was England’s leading forward throughout the tournament, having played a major part in Canterbury Bulldogs reaching the NRL Grand Final.
“As always, we will ask our 13-man voting panel to consider performances at international level first and foremost, but such was the impact of both Sam Burgess and Johnathan Thurston in the NRL this season that we felt it was impossible to overlook either of them.
“Thurston did take part in an international game, earning the man of the match in the ANZAC Test win over New Zealand in May, before jointly winning the prestigious Dally M award in Australia for his performances for North Queensland Cowboys.
“Sam Burgess, of course, was unavailable for the Four Nations due to his move to rugby union. But his contribution to South Sydney’s NRL title win was considerable, not least in the Grand Final, when his man of the match display with a fractured cheekbone and eye socket was one of the most iconic Rugby League performances of the modern era.”
There are precedents for players having won the Golden Boot without having played internationals during the season - 1999 winner Andrew Johns missed the Tri-Nations that year, while Brett Kenny didn’t feature for Australia in 1985.
Hookers Daryl Clark and Cameron Smith, New Zealanders Keiran Foran and Jason Taumalolo and joint Dally M winner Jarryd Hayne were among other players that were considered before the final shortlist of six was confirmed.