St Helens full-back Ben Barba has been named 2018 Steve Prescott Man of Steel ahead of his return to his homeland of Australia.
The 29-year-old was voted Super League’s outstanding performer this season by a poll of his fellow players and presented with the award at the annual ceremony in Manchester.
Barba, who held off competition from club-mate James Roby and Wigan forward John Bateman, is cutting short his stay in Super League after becoming homesick and will play for North Queensland Cowboys in 2019.
He made a blistering start to the season with a string of man-of-the-match performances to put Saints on their way to winning the League Leaders’ Shield.
The former Cronulla and Brisbane full-back is only the second player to win both the Man of Steel and the NRL equivalent, the Dally M, which he earned in 2012 during a spell with Canterbury Bulldogs.
Former Hull KR forward Gavin Miller won the Dally M Award as a Cronulla player in 1988, two years after being named Man of Steel.
Latest rugby league news
Barba, who was Super League’s top tryscorer with 28 touchdowns, is the first Australian to win the award since former Wigan winger Pat Richards in 2010 and the sixth in all.
He is the eighth St Helens winner of the prestigious award, which was introduced in 1977.
Wigan’s Shaun Wane was named coach of the year for the first time after steering the Warriors to a fifth Grand Final in seven seasons in his farewell campaign at his hometown club, and Castleford’s 19-year-old half-back Jake Trueman was named young player.
Castleford’s Georgia Roche, 17, made history be becoming the inaugural winner of the Woman of Steel award.
Warrington were named club of the year for not only reaching both the Grand Final and the Challenge Cup final but for their off-field work which includes a leading role in the formation of Physical Disability Rugby League.