But his 2013 was to get even better as he more than played his part in a first British & Irish Lions series victory in 16 years as Australia were beaten 2-1 this summer.
Halfpenny was named the man of the series for his part in downing the Qantas Wallabies, setting a new British & Irish Lions record in scoring 49 points across the three Tests.
The full-back's 21 points in the decisive third Test was also an individual record for the British & Irish Lions, overtaking the previous best held by his kicking coach Neil Jenkins from the 1997 tour of South Africa.
Halfpenny is the only British player on the five strong shortlist and is joined by New Zealand duo Kieran Read, Ben Smith, Italy's Sergio Parisse and South African Eben Etzebeth.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "The IRB Player of the Year Award is the ultimate recognition for achievement on the field from the world's top players and one of the most eagerly anticipated and debated moments of the international rugby year.
"The list of previous winners reads like a list of the greats of the modern game and all of our nominees fully deserve their place in the shortlist, displaying great character, ability and brilliance throughout the last 12 months of international rugby."