TAMIKA Upton will be a short-priced favourite to add the Golden Boot to a treasure trove of individual honours after her stunning Test debut in Australia's 16-10 victory against New Zealand in Townsville on Saturday night.
Newcastle's co-captain continued her remarkable season by scoring two tries to be named player of the match in the Pacific Cup opener.
Upton was recently awarded the Dally M Medal for player of the year in the NRLW competition, and followed that by winning her second consecutive Karyn Murphy Medal as the best performer in Newcastle's grand final triumph against Gold Coast.
The Golden Boot is awarded each year to the player adjudged the best in the world, with international performances weighing heavily in the selection criteria.
Upton was ineligible last year after she was ruled out of Australia's World Cup squad. New Zealand half Raecene McGregor won the award.
Previous women's recipients have included Upton's Jillaroos teammates Isabelle Kelly and Jessica Sergis.
The only other Newcastle player to receive the coveted trophy was Immortal Andrew Johns, in 1999 and 2001.
Upton looks set to join that exclusive club in the near future after a performance that Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry said was the difference between the two sides.
"If she doesn't play, we win, hey?" Henry said.
"She's obviously a quality player, the Dally M winner ... well deserved, too.
"We just tried to minimise her impact on the game, but she played really well tonight and has done all year."
Australia coach Brad Donald could only agree with Henry's appraisal.
"She's been fantastic all year," he said.
"You can probably say that about a number of games that she's played this year.
"She's definitely a game-breaker and she was fantastic tonight for us."
Upton's performance came as no surprise to Jillaroos captain Ali Brigginshaw, who has played alongside the 26-year-old fullback with Brisbane Broncos and Queensland Origin.
"I've played with her many times before [at Brisbane], so the more pressure the game has, the better she is," Brigginshaw said.
"But what I loved is just how calm she was out there and how much she bought into this jersey.
"That was her first game in the Jillaroos jersey. She didn't over-complicate it.
"She got behind all of the girls and she was just one of those players that you need out there.
"I could not be prouder of her debut."
Upton opened the scoring in the fifth minutes when she charged onto a short ball from Brigginshaw and raced 35 metres to score.
She made it a double from close range in the 32nd minute after another try assist from Brigginshaw.
As well as her two tries, Upton made a game-high 214 attacking metres, including three line breaks.
Australia's other try came in the 25th minute from one of Upton's Newcastle teammates, interchange forward Caitlan Johnston, who crashed through the middle of the ruck to force the ball over the line.
It was her second try in her fourth Test appearance.
Johnston made an impact in her 24 minutes of game time, carrying the ball 74 metres and effecting 11 crunching tackles.
The Kiwi Ferns stayed in the contest with tries by winger Annessa Biddle (13th minute) and powerful centre Mele Hufanga (44th minute).
Brigginshaw admitted the Australians were "a bit clunky" and would be looking to improve when they renew acquaintances with New Zealand in Melbourne on Saturday week.
"I think we'll see the best of both of the teams come two weeks' time," Donald said.
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