FOR the first time in history, there are joint winners of Group Seven Rugby League's highest honour - the Michael Cronin Medal.
Kiama captain Kieran Poole and Jamberoo workhorse Luke Asquith both finished the 10 round regular season on 12 votes, seeing the medal shared for the first time since its introduction in 1985 - which was first won by Albion Park-Oak Flats' Ralph Clarke.
"It's a huge honour to win this prestigious award and from my point of view, an exciting way to cap off what was a disappointing year on the field for the Knights," said 29-year-old Poole - who captained Kiama to their drought-breaking premiership in 2019.
"To win something in Mick's name, who is obviously a legend in rugby league having played for his country, is very humbling and something I'll always cherish.
"It's always nice to be recognised for individual awards but I feel this is a reflection of the hard work and success of our side recently, with Cam [Vazzoler] winning it in 2018 and Tom Angel going very close last season - highlighting the importance of success on the field.
"I was happy with how I played [this season] and feel the shift to lock has allowed me to take my game to another level.
"It's given me a chance to get my hands on the footy more and inject myself into the game when I feel is necessary."
At a special presentation by Group Seven's Scott McLaurin and Warren Kelly at the Kiama Showground on Monday, Poole became the second Knight to win the award in three seasons, after Cam Vazzoler took out the 2018 prize, while Asquith becomes the first ever Superoo to take home the competition's top individual gong.
"I was stoked when I found out I'd won the award, especially with it named after someone like Mick, who's achieved everything in rugby league," Asquith, 24, said.
"There are so many great players in Group Seven, so I feel very lucky to have won this award.
"After going so close to winning it the past few seasons [top five the past two years], it's very satisfying to finally break through and win one - no one ever remembers second or third.
"Especially when you add in that fact I'm the first Jamberoo player to win it, makes it super special, as they're my junior club and where I've played all my footy during my career.
"There's been plenty of talented footballers who have pulled on the Superoos jersey and have gone close to winning it, so to be the first is something I'll never forget."
Both the Kiama High School alumnus' were stoked to share the award, having known each other since they were kids.
"I can still remember Travis [Kieran's brother] and I playing footy in our backyard with Luke, who was probably five at the time, and his brothers James, Mark and Paul," Poole, who credited Group Seven for their amazing work to get the season going in 2020, said.
"Our families have always been close, so I'm stoked to be able to share this honour with him."
Asquith, who won the 2017 premiership with Jamberoo, echoed the sentiments of his fellow lock forward.
"My brothers Mark and James are the same age as Kieran, I've known him my whole life and I couldn't think of a more deserving player to firstly win it but also share it with," said Asquith, who said as nice as the individual awards were, he'd rather team success on the field.
In the past, if there was a tie, the player with the most man of the match performances would receive the award - but recent rule changes prevented this from happening.
This season also marked the first time in history the referees didn't enter the votes. The responsibility instead fell to the referees' assessor.
But Gerringong's Michael Cronin, fresh off his fifth first grade premiership with the Lions, explained both Poole and Asquith were worthy recipients of Group Seven's top individual award.
"I can't argue with either two of the winners - from what I've seen, they've both had outstanding seasons," Cronin said.
"Whenever we come up against Kiama or Jamberoo, their two names come up regularly as players we need to keep an eye on.
"In terms of Kieran, he's the sort of player everyone wants at their club - I've watched him play for years and sooner or later in the game, he's found himself in open space.
"While Luke's a little bit younger but ever since he's come into grade, he's had a big impact on Jamberoo and is a large part of why they've been near the top the past few seasons.
"Both are as consistent as any player in the competition and thoroughly deserve the recognition."
The lock forward duo finished one vote ahead of Warilla-Lake South half Blair Grant, who guided his Gorillas to their first grand final since 2016.
Two votes behind Grant was inspirational Stingrays of Shellharbour skipper Kieran Rankmore - with Gerringong pair Tyran Wishart and Nathan Ford, as well as Jamberoo's Mark Asquith finishing on eight.
Rounding out the top vote-getters were Gerringong's Kayne Brennan (seven) and Nowra-Bomaderry's Ryan James (six) - with all nine players featuring in the 2020 team of the year.