Kearns Crowned Storm Player Of The

The accolades just keep coming for Melbourne Storm prop Robbie Kearns after he was tonight named the club?s Player of the Year in front of over 450 guests at Melbourne?s Regent Theatre.

Following his selection as vice-captain of the Australian Kangaroo side earlier this week, tonight?s award caps off a remarkable season for the 31-year-old former Storm captain.

Critics had suggested that Kearns? career was washed up after the veteran front-rower struggled to play just 13 games and was stripped of the Storm captaincy last year.

But his return to the New South Wales State of Origin side and his club form this year has again ranked him among the game?s finest forwards.

Kearns becomes the second player to take out the club?s most prestigious individual honour twice after he was awarded the Storm?s inaugural Player of the Year award back in 1998.

Fellow prop Rodney Howe is the other Storm player to claim the coveted award twice, wining in 2000 and again last year.

After a dream season highlighted by selection in the Queensland State of Origin side, 20-year-old hooker Cameron Smith was named the Storm?s Rookie of the Year just ahead of fullback Billy Slater.

Smith?s performance in the victorious Maroon?s side earned him the QLD Player?s Player award and his form for the Storm this year was instrumental in the club reaching the finals for the first time since 2000.

Storm stalwart Danny Williams received two awards after he was named winner of Hit of the Year and the Michael Moore Award.

The latter is named in honour of the Storm?s former football manager Michael Moore who tragically died in Auckland three years ago and is awarded to the person who has made the greatest contribution to the organisation.

Having been with the Storm since day one and playing in all but one match this year, Williams was a popular choice for the award ? his first ever at the club.

Clubman of the Year was departing Papua New Guinean winger Marcus Bai, in recognition for his contribution to the club both on and off the field.

Bai, who is joining English Super League Club Leeds next year, also received a special presentation by several senior players and close friends including Matt Geyer and skipper Stephen Kearney.

In his debut NRL season rookie sensation Billy Slater took out the club?s Top Try Scorer?s award with 19 tries for the season, equal fourth on the NRL?s leading try scorers list.

Also acknowledged on the night were departing players Mitchell Sargent, Michael Russo and Semi Tadulala. Sargent is joining the North Queensland Cowboys next season and Russo will be heading to the Sharks. Tadulala won?t be in Melbourne next year after he was told this week that he does not fit coach Craig Bellamy?s plans for 2004.

Robbie Kearns and Stephen Kearney were also honoured for reaching 100 games for the club this year.