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Australian Steve Price today received the ultimate accolade in his home away from home when he was awarded the MNZM (Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit) for services to rugby league in New Zealand’s traditional New Year’s Honours.

Price (36) retired during the 2010 NRL season after a glittering career marked by 15 Tests for Australia, 28 State of Origin appearances for Queensland (the most by any forward in the competition’s history), 313 NRL games (222 for the Bulldogs and 91 for the Warriors) and an appearance as an honorary New Zealander for the All Golds in 2007.

After captaining the Warriors from 2005-2009 – the longest-serving leader in the club’s history – Price was prevented by injury from extending his NRL career in 2010.

While he finished his playing career this year, Price and his family have remained in New Zealand.

He said he was stunned when he was informed he had been awarded the MNZM.

“It is truly humbling for a Kiwi to nominate me for such an honour, for an Australian to be recognised in New Zealand in this way,” he said.

“From the moment we arrived in Auckland, we’ve loved living in New Zealand.

“I am very proud (of this honour) and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said the MNZM further underlined Price’s enduring popularity in New Zealand.

“He has been called the most popular Australian in New Zealand and this award proves why,” he said.

“This is a fantastic acknowledgement, recognising the contribution and the impact Steve has made since coming to New Zealand.

“He gave tremendous service to the Warriors as a captain and a player, making his mark from the moment he joined the club for the 2005 season.

“It’s a great honour for Steve but also for the club and the game generally.”

Of Price’s contribution to the game after joining the Warriors from the Bulldogs, the official release on the New Year’s Honours says: “He began the role (as captain) following the club’s worst-ever season and helped rebuild it to become one of the league’s best.

“He played a mentoring role to less experienced players. In 2006 he led the team with honesty and integrity while it was investigated by the National Rugby League over salary cap breaches, and in 2007 he was awarded Captain of the Year and Prop of the Year at the Dally M Awards.

“Mr Price has been described as ‘the most-loved Australian in New Zealand sporting history’.”

Price’s award follows similar recognition in recent years for his former club-mates and Kiwi legends Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki while Vodafone Warriors ambassador – the club’s 19th man – was knighted in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.