Sydney Roosters playmaker Todd Carney completed his stunning return to rugby league on Wednesday by picking up the RLIF International Player of the Year award.
Carney, who only joined the Roosters at the start of 2010 after being sacked by Canberra in 2008 and banned for a year for a series of off-field indiscretions, received the award from former Australian captain Wally Lewis at Eden Park in Auckland.
The 24-year-old is the third Australian in the three-year history of the award to pick up the prize, which is voted on by members of the international media and former players.
He follows in the footsteps of Melbourne’s Billy Slater and Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne who won in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
Carney, who spent the 2009 season rebuilding his life and his career playing district football in the north Queensland town of Atherton, was honoured for a memorable season that saw him guide the Roosters from wooden-spooners to grand finalists.
Although he was unable to prevent St George Illawarra winning a first NRL premiership, Carney’s displays had already seen him scoop the Dally M Medal in September and earn a first-ever international call-up to the Kangaroos’ Four Nations squad.
In addition to being awarded the prize for the world’s best player, Carney was also named five-eighth in the international team of the year.
Dragons coach Wayne Bennett received the Coach of the Year prize after ending the joint-venture’s long wait for a premiership, with a 32-8 victory over the Roosters in October.
England’s Sam Tomkins, of Super League champions Wigan, was named rookie of the year following a superb season that saw the Warriors win their first premiership in 12 years under the guidance of highly-rated Australian coach Michael Maguire.
Carney was joined in the team of the year by Kangaroos teammates Luke Lewis, who was named lock of the year, Robbie Farah, who picked up the hooker of the year accolade, and Dragons fullback Darius Boyd.
Gold Coast halfback Scott Prince was also included, along with the Roosters’ Kiwi centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Wests Tigers and England second-rower Gareth Ellis.