Kiwi Fern Apii Nicholls-Pualau is up for the Women’s Player Award, Steven Marsters for the Domestic Player 18s, and Daniel Reuelu-Buchanan is up for the Domestic Player Premier award.
In only her second year in rugby league, Nicholls-Pualau was a marvel at last year’s World Cup, and was integral to the Kiwi Ferns march to the final.
Although the tournament ended in heartbreak to Australia, 23-16, her performances showed that she has a future in the sport.
The 24 year old converted from rugby sevens, and had big shoes to fill when she was picked at fullback to replace the legendary Sarina Fiso, who was unavailable.
“There is a lot of pressure there because Sarina is pretty much the best fullback in New Zealand and I have looked up to her for so long,” Nicholls-Pualau told NRL.com. “I used to watch her on TV, so it is pretty special for me to take over that role.
“She helped me out a lot. At the start of the campaign she knew I was the back-up fullback so she spoke to me a lot about how to run specific lines, how to carry the ball, but also stuff like good vision, how to support from the back.”
Meanwhile, St George Illawarra fullback Marsters is up for the top award for an under-18 player.
He became an inaugural member of the Dragons’ development player squad ahead of the 2018 season, having graduated from the Illawarra Steelers SG Ball team last year.
He played for the New Zealand Under-18s team in 2016 and again in 2017, and agreed to a three-year contract that will see him remain a Dragon for the foreseeable future.
For the Domestic Player Premier award, Kuki Daniel Reuelu-Buchanan is a frontrunner after leading his Akarana side to the national title last year.
Thumping Waikato 30-4 in the final, Reuelu-Buchanan crossed early in the piece and his side never really looked back.
The awards were announced after this edition went to print.