Former Melbourne Storm forward and noted hardman Jeremy Smith has been awarded the 2008 New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) Player of the Year at the annual awards function in Auckland, New Zealand on Sunday.
Quickly growing in stature in recent years, the former Storm – now Dragons forward has earned a reputation and a physical and agressive player that takes no prisoners.
Sought out by incoming coach Wayne Bennett to add some starch to the Dragons pack, Smith will no doubt feel more pressure in 2009 as he deals with his status as a leading Kiwi and NRL forward.
Smith, 28, beat 5 other Kiwis from their World Cup winning squad who were also nominated as finalists – Warriors second rower Simon Mannering, Warriors halfback Nathan Fien, Warriors fullback Lance Hohaia, Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei, and Parramatta prop Nathan Cayless, who skippered the winning squad in October.
South Sydney’s exicting new hooking prospect Isaac Luke took out the NZ Rookie of the Year title, Manu Vatuvei the Personality of the Year, and Kiwis mentor Steve Kearney the Coach of the Year.