Benji Marshall alone keeps NZ flag flying

AARON LAWTON
Last updated 05:00 04/11/2011
Benji Marshall
PHOTOSPORT
RECOGNITION: Benji Marshall was named International Standoff of the Year.

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Kiwis skipper Benji Marshall's gong as the international standoff of the year was the only cause for celebration on an otherwise disappointing night for New Zealand and British league fans at the Rugby League International Federation's annual awards in London yesterday.

Held at the Tower of London on a cold and wet evening, players and officials were given a tour through the historic landmark and shown the Crown Jewels before the dinner began.

After a 12-month period in which the Kiwis won the Four Nations crown and the Warriors made it to the NRL grand final, many were tipping the New Zealanders to feature among the prizes.

But Marshall's award aside, it was all one-way traffic with Australian fullback Billy Slater – the 2011 Dally M medallist – crowned international player of the year and seven of his compatriots included in the team of the year.

The Melbourne Storm star had been shortlisted alongside Marshall and club mate Cameron Smith for the top award.

Marshall said he had been honoured to be named the world's best standoff but admitted his focus was on Sunday's test against Wales at Wembley Stadium.

"For the time being, this is the only game we have to play and one we need to win because, if we don't, that will be the end of the tournament for us.

"Anything short of making the final would be a failure for us. We want to go back to back, but the only way to do that is to improve on what we have been playing. The first step is Wales this weekend," Marshall said.

After making his international debut with a try against the Kiwis in May, Brisbane Broncos winger Jharal Yow Yeh was crowned international rookie of the year.

Manly Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler took home the international coach of the year award after guiding his side to premiership success with a win over the Warriors in the NRL grand final.

Australia's Four Nations quintet of Akuila Uate, Daly Cherry-Evans, Matt Scott, Sam Thaiday and Paul Gallen were also winners yesterday, taking home personal accolades as the best winger, halfback, prop, second row and loose forward during the past 12 months.

Manly star Jamie Lyon was the other individual winner, with the former St Helens player named centre of the year.

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- The Dominion Post

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