RUGBY LEAGUE: Gold Coast Titans winger and the NRL's latest cult sensation Anthony Don has been rewarded for what the winger has labelled his "best season yet".
The Grafton Ghosts product took out the Paul Broughton Medal as the Titans' best player of 2017 at the club's annual awards night on the Gold Coast on Wednesday night.
Don was the club's leading try-scorer for the second straight year in 2017, scoring 12 tries in 20 appearances and becomes the first winger and just the second back behind Preston Campbell to win the award in its 11-year history.
With voting done on a 3-2-1 system after each game, Don led the polling with 49 votes followed by New South Wales Origin hooker Nathan Peats (47) and Queensland forward Jarrod Wallace (45).
Four years after making his debut at the ripe old age of 25, Don has utilised a meticulous consistency along with a penchant for extraordinary feats of athleticism to rise through the NRL ranks this season getting his first taste of representative football in the City-Country Origin fixture back in May.
"I reckon I have played my best football this year easily," Don told The Daily Examiner.
"I feel a lot more confident in my football after this season. I feel like I have taken my game to a different level this year and I guess the award reflects that.
"But this is just the sugar on top of what I get to do. You play the game for the love of the game not the awards. I am just lucky I get paid to play footy, I get paid to do what I love."
With a list of previous recipients that include some of the greatest players to lace up the boots including Campbell, Titans stalwart Luke Bailey and fellow Clarence Valley son Luke Douglas, the significance of the award is not lost on Don.
"I really wasn't expecting to win this at all. It is not often wingers get best and fairest awards," he said. "It is pretty surreal too becuase of all the big names in rugby league who have won it before."
While he has scaled the heights on field, Don has also scaled them off-field with the winger developing a cult status among social media users.
The 'Anthony Don Appreciation Page' has grown to more than 1000 likes this year but the winger isn't one of them yet.
"My wife keeps on top of that sort of thing and she shows me a few of the posts every now and then," he said. "It is all a bit weird to me. I'm just a boy from the bush, I'm not used to all the extra attention and memes."
The award win was a pleasing way for Don to cap off what has been a forgetful season for the Titans off the field. Amidst constant criticism toward star player Jarrard Hayne and former coach Neil Henry, Don has also had to fight through a shoulder injury which claimed almost a quarter of his season.
But the winger said the club is already focused on making 2018 a better year despite negotiations continuing to find a replacement for the sacked Henry.
"There is a process the club is going through and hopefully we can have the position filled soon," he said. "I am not across the potential candidates as such but I am sure the Titans executive will make the right decision for the club."
Don's contract will be up at the end of 2018, and while negotiations have not begun between him and the Titans, Don is hoping to work out an extension to the deal.
"At the moment it is a bit hard to go into negotiations with the club, it is a bit of a tough time," he said. "But I would love to play for the Titans going into the future.
"I am close to home and I believe this club has a very bright future. Hopefully we are able to work out an extension (to the contract)."