Shaun Johnson’s 2023 season-ending week has gone from the disappointment of being pipped for the Dally M Medal to the elation of being voted The Players’ Champion by his peers.
The 33-year-old One New Zealand Warriors veteran has won the award ahead of teammate Addin Fonua-Blake and Brisbane’s Adam Reynolds, Payne Haas and Reece Walsh.
The award, run by the Rugby League Players’ Association, is the ultimate accolade for NRL players, judged on a weekly basis by the players throughout the season.
In 25 appearances he scored eight tries – his best in a season since 2016 – while he led all players with a career-best 29 try assists plus 20 line break involvements (also the season’s best).
“I really appreciate the recognition to be among your peers and be acknowledged like this. It’s pretty special,” said Johnson.
“It means a lot coming from the playing group in particular, and something I don’t take for granted.”
James Tedesco, who was voted The Players’ Champion for 2022, commended Johnson for his sensational year.
"On behalf of all the players, I want to congratulate Shaun on being voted The Players' Champion for this year," he said.
"Ever since he debuted back in 2011, SJ has been such a great player who has inspired so many young kids to take up playing the game of rugby league. He deserves this award and it's great to see him receive such a huge accolade.
"As a previous winner of The Players' Champion honour, I know how much of an honour it is to be named the best by all the players. It's a great feeling and I hope for Shaun it can give him great satisfaction for an amazing personal season. "
RLPA CEO Clint Newton said Johnson had been an inspiration.
“Shaun has been an elite player in the NRL competition ever since he burst onto the scene in 2011,” he said.
“Over that time he has been able to continually evolve and adapt each season despite the ever-increasing demands and intensity.
“He has been an inspiration to so many junior and current players who grew up watching him play. To have Shaun play and represent our game is certainly a blessing, and this honour as The Players’ Champion 2023 is an acknowledgement of not just a great season but a superb career so far.”
THE PLAYERS' CHAMPION | ROLL OF HONOUR
2023 Shaun Johnson
2022 James Tedesco
2021 Tom Trbojevic
2020 Nathan Cleary
2019 James Tedesco
2018 Kalyn Ponga
2017 James Tedesco
2016 Jason Taumalolo
2015 Johnathan Thurston
2014 Johnathan Thurston
2013 Johnathan Thurston
2012 Ben Barba
2011 Akuila Uate
2010 Darius Boyd
2009 Jarryd Hayne
2008 Braith Anasta & Petero Civoniceva
2007 Matt Bowen
2006 Ben Kennedy
2005 Johnathan Thurston
2004 Danny Buderus