If I could win any major rugby league award – and there’s no danger of this happening, I might add – I’d want to win the Clive Churchill Medal.
Being the best player in the competition over a year is certainly the greater achievement but, generally, I can’t remember who won the Dally M in any given year. To be the best player in the grand final though would be the greatest.
On the game’s biggest day, in front of the biggest audience – when your team (almost certainly) wins the comp – a Churchill Medal would be, I think, any player’s crowning achievement. It’s certainly the one that all the fans remember.
This is why, after many years of doing so, the NRL can no longer afford to get it wrong.
I think they have – got it wrong – many times over the years.
Kevin Ward was better than Cliff Lyons in 1987, Brad Mackay wasn’t close to the best player on the field in 1993, Andrew Johns and Troy Fletcher (remember him) were both better than Robbie O’Davis in 1997, Tawera Nikau was better than Brett Kimmorley in 1999 and Luke Phillips was better than Darren Lockyer in 2000.
Brad Fittler was better than Craig Fitzgibbon in 2002 and about five Melbourne players and three Parramatta players were better than Billy Slater in 2009. Incredibly, as a Roosters fan, I wasn’t too upset about Daly Cherry-Evans winning last year – I was only upset by Bob McCarthy’s moronic comments about Sam Moa and James Maloney in the aftermath, but that’s another story.
Obviously, any man of the match award is subjective, and there will always be differences of opinion, but for a showpiece award there are just too many issues with the Clive Churchill.
All of these mistakes stem, it seems to me, from the requirement that Channel Nine be given the winner’s name 15 to 20 minutes prior to the conclusion of the game.
Why? In readiness for the presentation, of course. This is ridiculous. Are they engraving the medal? Trying to make their way to the presentation area Spinal Tap-style? Cutting a graphics package?
I don’t have to tell you, if you’re reading this, that the game can completely change in the last 15 to 20 minutes and only then may the best player on the field rear his (possibly ugly) head.
Arguably, Billy Slater was the best player in the 2009 grand final at the 60-minute mark. Several mistakes, and one rousing but failed Parramatta comeback later, he was not. At least that’s the way I remember it.
But I don’t want to just be a whinger, so here’s a few simple ways to address Channel Nine’s timing concerns.
1. Tell them that the NRL runs the game, and they’ll get the name when the game is over, whether they like it or not. It’s just so crazy that it might work.
2. Tell them that, as soon as the game is over, the name will be texted to them or emailed to them or sent via Snapchat or a young kid holding a piece of paper will run like the clappers from where the Australian selectors sit to the presentation area. The presentation takes place five to ten minutes after the final siren. The information will get there in time.
3. If the medal really has to be engraved, give the winner a fake one like at the Oscars! Get him the real one later in the week. No one will know. It will be fine.
I could go on, but I won’t.
As has been increasingly obvious this year, the NRL dances to Nine’s tune, to the detriment of its fans. This is one small, very simple way to strike blow for the fans, and the NRL has about five weeks to get it right.