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Shaun Johnson wins Golden Boot

New Zealand halfback Shaun Johnson has capped a memorable 12 months by winning the 2014 Rugby League World Golden Boot - seeing off the challenge of union convert Sam Burgess for the honour.

The New Zealand Warriors playmaker, who broke England's hearts with a last-minute try and conversion in the semi-finals of the 2013 World Cup, produced a man-of-the-match performance in the 2014 Four Nations final in Wellington last month as the Kiwis defeated Australia to lift the title - a performance that impressed the 13-man voting panel.

For the second successive year, English forward Burgess - who swapped South Sydney for Bath in October - came second in the voting but, whereas 12 months ago Burgess was within seven points of Johnathan Thurston, this time Johnson was a decisive winner, collecting almost twice as many points as his nearest rival.

Johnson becomes only the fourth New Zealander to win the prestigious award, following in the footsteps of Hugh McGahan, Stacey Jones and Benji Marshall.

Johnson said: "Being a rugby league fan growing up, I always knew about the Golden Boot award.

"I was pretty aware of the players who'd won it before because they were players that I grew up watching like Stacey Jones and Andrew Johns. Then there were the current players that I admire like Thurston. To receive it is pretty unreal to be honest.

"I felt I finished the year really well and was able to take that into the Four Nations and was really happy with how I played for the Kiwis.

The panel of 13 judges comprised representatives from Australia, England, France and New Zealand, including former Golden Boot winner Garry Schofield, ex-Great Britain coach Brian Noble and past Kiwi internationals Robbie Hunter-Paul and Daryl Halligan.

On a six-man shortlist. Johnson claimed 44 points, Burgess 23, with James Graham third on 18 and Greg Inglis fourth with 17. Two-time winner Thurston - who missed the Four Nations through injury - polled 13 points and Kiwi prop Jesse Bromwich two.

"As is always the case with the Rugby League World Golden Boot, we asked the judges to consider the performances on the international stage first and foremost, and it's undeniable that Shaun Johnson had the biggest impact at that level in 2014," Rugby League World editor Gareth Walker said.

"Throughout the entire tournament he provided a devastating mix of organising the New Zealand side and producing moments of individual brilliance himself."

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