Gold Coast halfback Ash Taylor has survived a furious late bid from Penrith teenager Nathan Cleary to take out the rookie of the year award at the Dally M awards night.
Taylor also beat out a history-making campaign from Melbourne newcomer Suliasi Vunivalu to be claim the gong on Wednesday at The Star in Sydney.
The 21-year-old was unexpectedly thrust into the limelight at the Titans after a season-ending knee injury to first-choice playmaker Kane Elgey in the pre-season.
But the Brisbane junior immediately took it to his experienced rivals inside the opening month, leading the Titans into the top four with three wins from their first four games.
Gold Coast treaded water for rest of the season, squeezing into the top eight despite a loss to North Queensland in a mad final round of the regular season.
Taylor has been credited for a large chunk of the Titans’ success and is considered a key pillar as they strive towards more success in the future.
He finished the year with a team-high 12 try assists and 10 line-break assists from 22 games.
Cleary, 18, burst into contention after a stellar back half of the year when he too was thrown to the wolves in a surprise debut in round 13 and didn’t miss a game thereafter.
Vunivalu was also considered after breaking Israel Folau’s record of 21 tries for the season in his rookie campaign.