Ash Graham takes out Cowboys honour

Winger Ashley Graham has been rewarded for his best season in the NRL with the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys by winning the Paul Bowman Medal for the Cowboy of the Year in 2011.

The 27-year-old, who has been a Cowboy since 2006, received the medal from Cowboys life member and foundation player Paul Bowman in front of 530 guests at the Presentation Ball at Jupiters Townsville tonight.

Courage, speed, skill and an exemplary attitude on and off the field were the haulmarks of Graham's season, his 10th in the NRL.

He polled 26 votes, four ahead of runner-up Johnathan Thurston, with Matthew Scott and James Tamou sharing third on 22.

Graham played in all 25 NRL games for the Cowboys, who made the finals for the first time since 2007, and it's widely believed that the winger has never played better or more consistent football.

Almost every week, Graham topped the Cowboys statistics sheet for most hit-ups and most metres gained and he finished in the top three in both categories in the NRL.

He scored some of the most spectacular tries of the season in his club-high haul of 12 for the year and was recognised by the NRL in their inaugural Academic Team of the Year.

Coach Neil Henry said Graham's season was a key factor in the club's return to the top eight.