Hayne and JT make Dally M history
In the end, they just couldn't be split.
For the first time in Dally M history, the NRL's best and fairest award was shared between two winners in Johnathan Thurston and Jarryd Hayne.
Highlighting their remarkable seasons, the duo walked away from rugby league's night of nights holding seven accolades between them. Thurston also picked up Halfback of the Year and Top Pointscorer, while Hayne was named Fullback of the Year, Top Tryscorer and Representative Player of the Year.
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For Thurston, it was his third time winning the league's most coveted individual honour, sitting him alongside Immortal Andrew Johns as the only players to boast three medals. But he doubted he could win a fourth.
"Look, to win one is such a huge honour and here I am beside an Immortal. I'm so happy and I've got my teammates to thank for that," he said.
"I've only got three years left so I don't think there's another one. Never say never, but we'll wait and see."
For Hayne, just hours after returning from a fact-finding mission in the United States, it was his second Dally M to add to his top gong in 2009.
"I knew it was going to be close but to win it, I haven't really thought that much into it to be honest," he said.
"I've been in America for the last two weeks and literally only come back to be at the awards. So to come close and win it with Johnno, it's special. I probably got lucky out of the both of us."
The Eels skipper, who was partnered at the awards by dad Manoa Thompson on Monday night after taking his mum in 2009, said he was a more consistent player than the one who blazed an unforgettable trail on the competition five years ago.
"It's a tough one, but I was probably more consistent [this year]. As a team, we played a lot better throughout the year. It was the same thing in '09 – it's a team thing and you work together," he said.
And in a frightening thought for opposition teams, the Eels skipper said one of the most significant lessons he learnt from his tour of NFL side the Seattle Seahawks was that he can definitely get better.
"Of course [I can]," he said. "The way they do things [in NFL], the way they operate, and their mindset towards being better. Their mindset is they want to be number one.
"There's obviously a lot of ego in the States and a lot of people that are proud about being the best. When you've got that kind of mentality, you take things to another level. That's why they're the best."
After a slow start to the year, the Cowboys made a furious rally at the back end of the season which saw them steal a finals spot and Thurston was at the heart of it. The North Queensland skipper admitted he was driven by a combination of an Origin series defeat and the club's poor position on the ladder.
"I was disappointed in my own performance in the Origin series but more importantly as a club we weren't sitting well after that Origin series so I believed in the game plan and the coaching structures our coaching staff had put in place," he said.
"We went on that good run and I don't think it was Origin that spurred me on, it was the place we were sitting on the ladder and I knew we were a lot better team than what we were showing."