Skip to main content

Posted by RLPA

October 01, 2023

Berry and Johnson are The Players’ Champions

The Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) is pleased to announce Teagan Berry and Shaun Johnson have been voted by their playing peers as The Players’ Champion winners for 2023.

Johnson and Berry both won the prestigious award for the first time ever following outstanding personal seasons. Fullback Berry’s win continues the St George Illawarra Dragons’ dominance in the award as she joins Emma Tonegato and Jessica Sergis as the third Dragon to win the award in the past five seasons. 

Berry secured The Players’ Champion ahead of fellow finalists Tarryn Aiken (Sydney Roosters), Zahara Temara (Canberra Raiders), Sarah Togatuki (Wests Tigers), and Tamika Upton (Newcastle Knights).

It caps off another incredible season for Berry on the field following her move from the wing. She was the NRLW leading try scorer with 11 tries in nine games, added five try assists (equal 11th overall), and showed her powerful ball running skills with 59 tackle breaks (fourth overall), and 182 total runs (second overall) for 1,888 run metres (second overall) at an average of 209 run metres per game.

“I feel very grateful that I have been selected as The Players’ Champion, and it’s very nice to be acknowledged by the players,” said Berry.

“I’d also like to thank the club at the Dragons and Jamie Soward for giving me the opportunity to play fullback this season. I’ve had so much fun and I’m really looking forward to next year.”

Raecene McGregor, the reigning Players’ Champion from 2022 and Berry’s Dragons teammate praised the fullback for her impressive 2023 season.

“I want to send a big congratulations to Teagan for being named The Players’ Champion in 2023”, said McGregor.

“As a previous winner, I know how much of an achievement it is to be voted by your peers. For Teagan, the way she has handled the transition from wing to fullback has been something no one will forget. We are all very proud of her as teammates to be named The Players’ Champion by the players we play against every week.”

A first Players’ Champion award for Johnson saw him beat out a tough field of Finalists as he was voted ahead of teammate Addin Fonua-Blake, and the Brisbane Broncos’ Adam Reynolds, Payne Haas and Reece Walsh.

Johnson was electric all season long as his Warriors side charged toward their first Preliminary Final in 12 years. In 2023, the star halfback scored eight tries in 25 appearances, setting up his teammates with 29 try assists (first overall), 26 line-break assists (seventh overall), and a monstrous 13,091 kick metres (first overall).

“I really appreciate obviously one all the work the RLPA does for the playing group, and two the recognition to be amongst your peers and be acknowledged like this is pretty special,” said Johnson.

“It means a lot coming from the playing group in particular, and something I don’t take for granted.”

Teagan Berry, The Players' Champion 2023
Teagan Berry, The Players’ Champion 2023

James Tedesco, who was voted The Players’ Champion for 2022, commended Johnson for his sensational year:

“On behalf of all the players, I want to congratulate Shaun on being voted The Players’ Champion for this year.”

“Ever since he debuted back in 2011, SJ has been such a great player who has inspired so many young kids to take up playing the game of rugby league. He deserves this award and it’s great to see him receive such a huge accolade.

“As a previous winner of The Players’ Champion honour, I know how much of an honour it is to be named the best by all the players. It’s a great feeling and I hope for Shaun it can give him great satisfaction for an amazing personal season. “

Berry and Johnson were also selected in their positions for the Players’ Dream Team from the NRLW and NRL competitions. 

Clint Newton, Chief Executive Officer of the RLPA, congratulated Berry and Johnson on becoming Players’ Champions: 

“On behalf of the RLPA, I would like to congratulate Teagan and Shaun on this incredible recognition from their peers. To be crowned by your fellow players as their Players’ Champion and considered the best player in your competition for that season is an outstanding appreciation of their consistent performances.” 

“Teagan was considered an elite winger before the season started but showed great class by transforming herself during the 2023 NRLW season. She was an instant sensation at fullback, scoring two tries against the eventual minor premiers the Newcastle Knights in the very first game of the season. 

“We are proud to have Teagan play rugby league and this award is a testament to her blistering speed, adventurous ability to take on the line, and her knack for crossing the try line. At just 21 years old, we look forward to watching Teagan play and excel for many more years to come.” 

“Shaun has been an elite player in the NRL competition ever since he burst onto the scene in 2011. Over that time he has been able to continually evolve and adapt each season despite the ever-increasing demands and intensity. 

“He has been an inspiration to so many junior and current players who grew up watching him play. To have Shaun play and represent our game is certainly a blessing, and this honour as The Players’ Champion 2023 is an acknowledgement of not just a great season but a superb career so far.” 

“I would like to thank Channel Nine for partnering with the RLPA for the 2023 Players’ Awards. This is the fourth year of our great partnership and their inclusion of The Players’ Champion winners’ announcement into their Grand Final broadcast coverage. Their support is crucial in elevating the award and ensuring the players’ achievements are celebrated as they deserve.”

RLPA CEO Clint Newton presents Shaun Johnson with The Players’ Champion trophy

Most Players’ Champion awards:

  • 4 – Johnathan Thurston
  • 3 – James Tedesco

The Players’ Champion from the NRL:

  • 2023 Shaun Johnson
  • 2022 James Tedesco (3)
  • 2021 Tom Trbojevic
  • 2020 Nathan Cleary
  • 2019 James Tedesco (2)
  • 2018 Kalyn Ponga
  • 2017 James Tedesco (1)
  • 2016 Jason Taumalolo
  • 2015 Johnathan Thurston (4)
  • 2014 Johnathan Thurston (3)
  • 2013 Johnathan Thurston (2)
  • 2012 Ben Barba
  • 2011 Akuila Uate
  • 2010 Darius Boyd
  • 2009 Jarryd Hayne
  • 2008 Braith Anasta & Petero Civoniceva
  • 2007 Matt Bowen
  • 2006 Ben Kennedy
  • 2005 Johnathan Thurston (1)
  • 2004 Danny Buderus

The Players’ Champion from the NRLW

  • 2023 Teagan Berry
  • 2022 Raecene McGregor
  • 2021 Emma Tonegato
  • 2020 Hannah Southwell
  • 2019 Jessica Sergis

Full list of The Players’ Awards winners for 2023

The Players’ Champion: Teagan Berry and Shaun Johnson

The Players’ Rookie of the Year: Annessa Biddle and Jahream Bula

Dennis Tutty Award: Chelsea Lenarduzzi and Wade Graham

The Players’ Dream Team from the NRL: Reece Walsh, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Herbie Farnworth, Stephen Crichton, Brian To’o, Cameron Munster, Shaun Johnson, Payne Haas, Harry Grant, Addin Fonua-Blake, Haumole Olakau’atu, Liam Martin, Patrick Carrigan

The Players’ Dream Team from the NRLW: Teagan Berry, Jakiya Whitfeld, Mele Hufanga, Shanice Parker, Annessa Biddle, Tarryn Aiken, Ali Brigginshaw, Shannon Mato, Emma Manzelmann, Sarah Togatuki, Yasmin Clydsdale, Otesa Pule, Simaima Taufa

Partner Promotion

Visit our Partners