Even Kevin Sinfield was surprised to win rugby league’s unofficial prize for the world’s best player – the Golden Boot.
However, the Leeds champion dismissed his Australian critics who believe NRL stars like Melbourne’s Cameron Smith and Canterbury’s Dally M Medallist Ben Barba were better placed to win the award with Sinfield claiming Aussies “rate themselves very highly”.
Sinfield, 32, looked set to go a long way to silencing the cynics when he led English Super League champions Leeds out against a star-studded Melbourne Storm in the upcoming World Club Challenge.
But the backlash over the England captain ousting the stars of the NRL does not look like going away soon after the Englishman’s response.
“The Australians probably think the NRL competition is far superior to Super League,” he told BBC Sport.
“Whether they rate me or not I am not sure, but with a lot of the Australians they rate themselves very highly.
“I am not bothered or interested in what they say. If they want to have a crack then they can fire away.”
Sinfield became the fourth Englishman to claim the Golden Boot, and the first since Andy Farrell in 2004.
“I am surprised to win it and I feel very fortunate,” Sinfield told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“I don’t pick the award. Like everything, people have an opinion.
“When do you ever have a 100 per cent winner?”
Back in pre-season training with Leeds, Sinfield will no doubt be looking to get the last laugh in the World Club Challenge (WCC) at home ground Headingley on February 22.
Sinfield led Leeds to a 26-12 triumph over Manly at last year’s WCC, sparking a big year for the 10-year Rhinos skipper.
He overcame a head knock to lead the Rhinos to their sixth Super League title in nine years while also collecting the man of the match award.
He also took Leeds to the Challenge Cup final at Wembley which they lost to Warrington.
However, eyebrows were raised over Sinfield’s international efforts last year which only featured Tests against France and Wales.
“If people are not happy about it, it is not my problem,” Sinfield said.