COWBOYS five-eighth Johnathan Thurston went from a strong critic of the game to a humble recipient of his second Rugby League Player's Association Players' Player award during a presentation in Sydney on Tuesday night.
Thurston (pictured) narrowly beat Todd Carney, Cameron Smith, Anthony Watmough and Roosters dual international Sonny Bill Williams for the award, which was voted on in a 3-2-1 basis by opposition players after each game.
The 30-year-old did not return to Sydney to collect the award, recording a message from his Townsville home with three-month-old daughter on his knee.
The honour came on the same day Thurston was cleared by the NRL of wrongdoing for suggesting there was a conspiracy against non-Sydney clubs, after the Cowboys' controversial finals exit against the Sharks last weekend.
Thurston first won the award in 2005.
"To be voted by your peers as the best, (there) is no higher honour in the game," he said.
South Sydney prop George Burgess was named rookie of the year.
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