MELBOURNE - Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith capped a remarkable season by taking out the NRL club's player of the year award on Friday night. The honour comes after Smith led the Storm to their second premiership win in last week's grand final, while he also guided Australia and Queensland to victory in 2012. Smith received 28 votes to edge out Ryan Hoffman (26) and Cooper Cronk (23) to win the award, presented by coach Craig Bellamy in a ceremony at the Melbourne Convention Centre. It is the 29-year-old's fifth Storm player of the year award.
Two per team
JOHANNESBURG - The South African Rugby Union will keep the cap on foreign players in Super Rugby to two per team, rejecting a request by tournament newcomers the Southern Kings to allow them more in their first season. SARU said on Friday that "the status quo remained" regarding overseas players in franchise squads following a meeting in Johannesburg. The Kings hoped to hire more foreigners to help after being promoted for the 2013 season.
Blair in squad
WELLINGTON - Test veteran Adam Blair has been recalled to the Kiwis squad for next week's Test against the Kangaroos in Townsville following the injury withdrawal of forward Jeremy Smith. Smith injured his shoulder in Cronulla's elimination final loss to Canberra in the first week of the NRL finals. A medical report from his new club Newcastle, prompted further examination and an MRI scan this week has shown the severity of the shoulder injury had been underestimated.
BEIJING - World No.2 Novak Djokovic raced into the last four of the China Open in straight sets on Friday as home favourite Li Na set up a testing women's semi-final with Russian tennis queen Maria Sharapova. The 25-year-old Serbian thumped Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-1 6-2 to maintain his unbeaten record at the Beijing tournament and continue his push to finish the year at No.1 in the rankings. Djokovic, behind only Roger Federer in the ATP standings, has won the China Open on the two occasions he has entered -- in 2009 and 2010 -- but missed last year because of injury.
Award for Farah
PARIS - Britain's double Olympic champion Mo Farah has been voted the European Athlete of the Year for the second straight year. Farah, who pulled off the 5000/10,000 metres double in London, is just the second athlete to win back-to-back European Athlete of the Year awards after Swedish triple jumper Christian Olsson in 2003 and 2004.
HOSSEGOR, France - Surfing legend Kelly Slater boosted his hopes of a 12th world title after claiming victory at the Quiksilver Pro in France on Friday. The American prevailed in the final over countryman Dane Reynolds in one-metre waves at La Graviere to claim back-to-back event wins after also taking out the Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles, California last month.