England winger Tommy Makinson has been rewarded for an eye-catching debut season in international rugby league to be crowned 2018's Golden Boot winner in Leeds on Wednesday night (Thursday morning AEDT).
Makinson, who is coming off a hat-trick of tries against New Zealand at Anfield last week, beat England teammate Elliott Whitehead, Kangaroos fullback James Tedesco and Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to receive the award.
He becomes just the fifth England player to receive the award since 1984 and first since former captain Kevin Sinfield in 2012.
"Yeah it's pretty special - it hasn't quite sunk in yet. Even to be nominated was something special and to come away with it means so much to me," he said.
"I had my injury doubts and troubles - for two years I was out of the game so I was questioning myself when I come back. I come back slowly from those injuries then got two good years before me which gave me confidence.
"It's been a tough two Tests and it could have gone either way. We want to go all the way and win all three and the Kiwis aren't just going to let that happen so it's going to be another tough Test."
Makinson stunned by Golden Boot win
The 27-year-old made his Test debut off the bench against the Kiwis in Denver in May and scored a try before featuring in Wayne Bennett's starting side for the opening two games of England's Test series on home turf.
England coach Wayne Bennett questioned where the Super League had been hiding the St Helens winger after a match-winning treble in Liverpool.
"I just want to know where you've been hiding him," Bennett said.
"I didn't know about Tom until we took him to America and I realised he was pretty special then."
Makinson credited Bennett for taking his development to new heights.
"I don't think he gets enough credit that he deserves, not that he's bothered," Makinson said.
"He's been around for so long to coach so many great players. What he's doing with this group of lads is special and filters on a lot of confidence.
"Picking a player like me who's 26 and not had a shot for a while, puts a lot of confidence into you."
The RLIF Golden Boot award recognises the most outstanding performances in both men's and women's international matches and covers all fully sanctioned international games played from last December's World Cup final to Sunday's second Test between England and New Zealand.
The award is chosen by a panel drawn from rugby league media in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Golden Boot winner Tommy Makinson
The panel comprises NRL.com senior reporter Brad Walter, BBC commentator Dave Woods, renowned journalist Steve Mascord, film maker and Pacific specialist Joanna Lester and League Express managing editor Martyn Sadler.
Meanwhile, the RLIF has announced players who have played 50 Tests will now receive a Golden Cap as recognition for their achievements.
The initial recipients of the caps are:
- Jim Sullivan 1921-1934, who played 54 internationals for Wales, England and GB;
- Mick Sullivan 1954-1962, who played 50 internationals for England and GB;
- Ruben Wiki 1994-2006, who played 55 internationals for New Zealand;
- Adrian Morley 1996-2012, who played 53 internationals for England and GB;
- Darren Lockyer 1997-2011, who played 59 internationals for Australia;
- Petero Civoniceva 2001-2014, who played 51 internationals for Australia and Fiji;
- Cameron Smith 2006-2017, who played 56 internationals for Australia.
Hat-trick hero Makinson man of the match