England winger Tommy Makinson is a deserved winner of the 2018 Golden Boot, says New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
The Kiwis full-back was on the Rugby League International Federation’s four-man short-list for the prestigious award after leading his country to a 26-24 victory over Australia in October.
Australia full-back James Tedesco and England second-rower Elliott Whitehead were the other men in contention but Watene-Zelezniak had no complaints about the award going to the St Helens player.
“He deserves it, he’s an awesome player,” he said.
“I’m happy with my nomination, I’ve just got to keep going.
“It’s been one of my better series but I’ve still got a long way to go and, if anything, it makes me hungrier.”
New Zealand will be aiming to avoid a fourth successive defeat to England and a series whitewash at Elland Road on Sunday after finishing on the wrong end of two fiercely-contested Tests in Hull and Liverpool.
“They have been good for the game,” Watene-Zelezniak said.
“They have been tough games, probably a couple of the toughest games I’ve played in my career.
“It’s good for the game but not so much for the body, and it will be another tough game this week.”
Coach Michael Maguire will need to make at least one change after losing winger Jordan Rapana with a dislocated shoulder in the 20-14 defeat at Anfield last Sunday.
England have lost scrum-half Sam Tomkins and hooker Daryl Clark to injury while prop George Burgesss has been given a four-match ban after being found guilty of gouging Watene-Zelezniak.
The Kiwis skipper played down the incident in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s game but New Zealand cited the South Sydney forward and Watene-Zelezniak says he was happy to allow the matter to take its course.
“I just left it to the judiciary,” he said. “They had to do what they did.
“I don’t mind, I just want to play football so I’ll leave those kind of things for them to deal with and I’ll continue to focus on my game.”