IT was once arguably rugby league's greatest individual accolade, awarded annually to the player adjudged to be the best in the world.
But the concept of the Golden Boot is again under scrutiny after champion Newcastle Knights fullback Tamika Upton was overlooked for the women's award yesterday.
Upton is the reigning Dally M medallist and has been player of the match in back-to-back NRLW grand finals, as well as on her recent Test debut for the Jillaroos.
But the Golden Boot was instead presented to New Zealand lock Georgia Hale, who plays for the Gold Coast Titans team Newcastle beat in last season's NRLW premiership decider.
International Rugby League chairman Troy Grant explained in a radio interview with SEN yesterday that the "world's best player" selection criteria was revamped five years ago.
"Since 2018, it's changed ... it's now just based on performances in sanctioned internationals for that calendar year," Grant said.
Hale played in three Tests for the Silver Ferns this year, a 16-10 loss to Australia, a 28-10 win against Tonga and then a boilover 12-6 win against the Jillaroos - their first victory over their trans-Tasman rivals in seven years.
There can be no denying her all-round involvement across the three Tests, as she averaged 129 attacking metres and 43 tackles per game.
But Upton was also outstanding in the two Tests she played, scoring two tries, making three line breaks and carrying the ball 214 metres in game one of the series. While not as dominant in the upset loss to New Zealand, she still contributed 125 metres and a line break.
Initially 14 women's players were nominated by the media, which was reduced to a short list of four.
The final judging panel comprised former New Zealand dual international Honey Hireme-Smiler, ex-England Test prop Danika Priim, and Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy - who coaches Hale at the Titans.
Knights CEO Phil Gardner said he had no complaints about the panel's decision, before adding: "Congratulations to Georgia Hale, but we wouldn't swap Tamika for any player in the world."
Ron Griffiths, who coached the Knights to their consecutive NRLW premierships, declined to comment, saying he was unsure about the Golden Boot selection criteria.
The men's Golden Boot was won by Penrith prop James Fisher-Harris, who captained New Zealand to a shock win against the Kangaroos in the recent Pacific Championships final.