This year’s farcical decision proves the Wally Lewis Medal needs fixing

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    Since 2004, the Wally Lewis Medal has been one of the most prestigious awards in rugby league, given to the best player at the end of the State of Origin series. Handing that accolade to a player who only played two of the three games has devalued it forever.

    How a player who missed Game 1 – winning or losing side – can be handed the award is beyond me. That the player was on the losing side makes it a farce.

    My gripe here isn’t with Billy Slater, who was, of course, the man given the medal last night. It’s with the selection panel and the process by which they have to pick the Wally Lewis Medal.

    That panel consisted of Laurie Daley, Darren Lockyer and Mal Meninga.

    Even though they’re among the best to ever lace up a boot, having such a subjective award decided by three men who still have close ties to the players running around for the Blues and Maroons is problematic.

    I don’t want to come across as questioning their integrity to select an award like this, but you cannot deny it seems like they’ve just picked the feelgood person rather than the best candidate; this was Slater’s final Origin series, so why not give him the perfect send-off?

    Now, while they’ve picked the wrong man, the decision wasn’t entirely their own fault. The process they have to pick by is flawed.

    Each of the three pick on a 4-3-2-1 system after each game, meaning the maximum amount of points a player could get across the series is 36.

    If Slater was to pick up 12 points last night and, say, eight in Game 2, he would all of a sudden have 20, which would be tough for another player to match.

    Billy Slater

    (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

    It means a player taking part in only two-thirds of the series could still come away with the player of the series, which is just what we saw.

    What the correct system actually looks like is up for debate. Perhaps the rules need to be tightened around eligibility for the award. The NRL themselves have said they’ll consider changing the process after what happened last night.

    It’s hard to be objective in the judges’ positions. That’s not to say others would have come up with another option, but picking with no affiliation to players, officials or coaches would be a handy start.

    The public should also be granted some transparency around the voting process. Footy fans should be able to see exactly how votes were awarded across the three games. I’d be very surprised if James Tedesco didn’t get 12 from Game 1 and plenty from Game 2 as well.

    James Tedesco

    (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

    Other leagues around the world see different selection methods. The NBA MVP is picked by the media, players and officials. The AFL’s Brownlow Medal is picked by umpires after each game, and that’s a model the NRL should consider adopting to protect the integrity of the Wally Lewis Medal.

    The problem with using those models is Origin’s need for immediacy, rather than having a delay like we see in the NBA or the AFL – or even in the NRL with the Dally M.

    There is no reason Origin’s player of the series shouldn’t be picked by the referees on game day. Heck, we have a bunker sitting there watching the game, plus four in the middle of the field and a few on standby. If the eight of them can’t get together and work out collectively who gets the points, then there is something wrong.

    It would take five minutes at most and you’d get the same level of immediacy as we currently have, allowing it to be part of the post-match presentation following Game 3.

    The Wally Lewis Medal, at any rate, is supposed to reward the best player of the entire Origin series, not just one or two games. Under the current system, we didn’t get that this year.

    This is a slap in the face for players on the winning side who had sensational series. James Tedesco, Damien Cook, Tom Trbojevic and Blues captain Boyd Cordner all put in three brilliant performances in what was one of the best Origin series in history. In fact, you’d almost go as far to call it the best.

    Giving the Wally Lewis Medal to Slater isn’t right. That’s the hand we’ve been dealt in 2018, but it should be the catalyst for change to restore the award to its former glory.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 2000 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (71)

    • July 12th 2018 @ 5:21pm
      Larry1950 said | July 12th 2018 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

      I thought that decision was a bit rough at first sight straight after the game but when they announced the points system it became more feasible for Billy to pip a bunch of blues. Qld had very few standouts while the blues had guys perform well but in patches. Slater put on a master class in game 2, offsetting Cook & Tedesco’s game 1 polling. Turbo was shown up in game 2, so probably got no points from his teammates. Again last night, Slater was in everything so conceivably got big points so it looks like that was to his benefit.
      Remember, this system replaced that old man of the match selection process where the winner was generally chosen 10 minutes before the end of the match & regularly got egg on the face of those selecting the MOM.
      Can’t see how it would be a sentimental choice, that’s unfair to the panel. It’s a bit like this obsession with metres run, sometimes a forward who has 15 runs for 80-90 does more for the team than a lazy wide runner with 1-2 long runs to get their metres up.

      • Roar Guru

        July 12th 2018 @ 6:00pm
        Emcie said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

        Yep, it’s pretty much the same system as the Dally M’s and that’s been a farce for years, where you’ve got a better chance of scoring high if you’re a good player in a poor team then if you’re a great player in a great team. Funny how no ones blowing up about those though.

        I do find it a bit rediculous that soo much of the reporting of the game has been dedicated to who won a post match award with an already dubious premise rather then the game itself. But gotta create some drama to write about I suppose

        • Roar Guru

          July 12th 2018 @ 8:34pm
          The Barry said | July 12th 2018 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

          That’s not really true about the Dally Ms though. Players from top teams win it all the time – it’s a rarity that a good player from a poor team polls well.

          Are you really surprised at the fuss over this?

          1. Imagine if the situation was reversed and a retiring blues player who’d played two games won the medal in a Queensland series winning year.
          2. No one really knew about the scoring system so there’s a bit of a surprise there.
          3. Even allowing for the scoring system, there’s no way Slater was the best player of the series. Slater wasn’t Queensland’s best last night. DCE was heaps better and I thought Holmes was better than Slater as well.

          Even ignoring that, Tedesco was man of the match in game one. So that puts them equal on points and he was better than Slater in game two. He should have more points than Slater. This was a sentimental decision and it’s rightly brought the scoring into question and unfortunately the validity of the medal itself.

          • Roar Guru

            July 12th 2018 @ 10:08pm
            Emcie said | July 12th 2018 @ 10:08pm | ! Report

            IT’s the same system, if anything a bit fairer with 4 points on offer instead of 3 (is it 3 for Dally M’s?), but the Dally M’s are spread over a much larger sample base which smooths out alot of the bumps, Origin doesn’t have that luxury. But the Dally M’s are in no way an accurate indication of who’s truely the best over the season, any system where you can get more points playing average footy against a poor side than playing great footy against a great side is questionable.

            On your points-

            1) There’s no point bringing your own fan fiction into this
            2) I think the biggest surprise here for most people was what the Wally Lewis medal was
            3) A lot of what Slater did last night doesn’t make it onto the tv screen, he was in everything, organising defenders, setting up plays, always in support as a genuine option (one QLD should have taken more often). Best on field was a toss up between DCE and Slater and either choice would have been justified, Holmes came up with some great moments but he was behind the other two when it comes to the total effect on the game

            A lot of what Slater does is more about benifiting the team then individual performance which may affect the score. Thats something Maloney deserved the credit for in the first two games and I wouldn’t be surprised if he cost Teddy some points. Over all I doubt if there was more then a point between Slater and and second place so I’m not sure its quite as contraversial as it seems, or at least the controversy doesn’t match the outrage

            • Roar Guru

              July 12th 2018 @ 11:27pm
              The Barry said | July 12th 2018 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

              It’s not fan fiction. Look at the reaction in game 2 last year when Josh Jackson won a man of the MATCH award in a losing team.

              The comparison below shows that any system that comes up with Slater as man of the series over Tedesco is fundamentally flawed. I’m surprised you’re surprised at the reaction.

              But outside the points system, Tedesco was MOM in game one, was better than Slater in game 2 and Slater wasn’t the best player on the field in game three. It wasn’t just the system that failed. Sentiment played its part too.

              Tries: Tedesco 2, Slater 0
              Try Assists: Tedesco 2, Slater 0
              Runs: Tedesco 54, Slater 30
              Run Meters: Tedesco 502, Slater 254
              Tackle Breaks: Tedesco 25, Slater 6
              Line Breaks: Tedesco 4, Slater 0
              Line Break Assists: Tedesco 3, Slater 2
              Tackles: Tedesco 20, Slater 8
              Errors: Tedesco 1, Slater 3

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 9:48am
                Scott Pryde said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

                The stats are pretty damning… While I don’t begrudge the judges doing their job, it shows fundamentally the system needs changing one way or another.

    • Roar Guru

      July 12th 2018 @ 5:37pm
      steve b said | July 12th 2018 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

      Spot on Scott we put the question around today in the grib hut at morning tea and the majority reckon its a farce. They just threw the credibility of the award in bin as for the expert former players who voted all as i can say is what games were they watching. It certainly looks like favoritism for a retiring Billy Slater. Yes he was good and probably the best fullback we have seen but he did not deserve player of the series after only two games. The NRL need to fix it so only a player who has played the entire series is eligible.

      • Roar Guru

        July 13th 2018 @ 9:48am
        Scott Pryde said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        Agree on the eligibility point Steve.

    • July 12th 2018 @ 5:52pm
      Greg said | July 12th 2018 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

      Meninga and Lockyer are probably still laughing amongst themselves, “NSW may have won the series but at least we still got this one over them”.

      • July 12th 2018 @ 6:33pm
        Peter said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

        So change the rules. The winner must be in the side that won the series. Or must be a NSWelshperson. Or must be picked by the NSW coach and Gus Gould. Or whatever you want, Wah waah.
        No, Slater was not the best player on the night or across the series. We all know why he received the medal. Under the current rules, tough.

        • Roar Guru

          July 12th 2018 @ 8:35pm
          The Barry said | July 12th 2018 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

          So you agree with the people that you’re calling sooks…🤔

          • July 13th 2018 @ 1:30am
            Peter said | July 13th 2018 @ 1:30am | ! Report

            As you have read, I do not think Slater was the best player in the match or the series. I agree that .I suggested that if Greg doesn’t like this year’s outcome, he can start working on getting the rules changed for next year. And I did not call anyone a sook.

            • Roar Guru

              July 13th 2018 @ 7:10am
              The Barry said | July 13th 2018 @ 7:10am | ! Report

              What does “wah waah” mean then?

              • July 13th 2018 @ 10:10am
                JonD said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:10am | ! Report

                It means “whining sook”, which is something we actually thought we might not have seen as NSW actually won this year. However never underestimate the determination of a Blue to have a good whine …..

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 10:40am
                The Barry said | July 13th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

                I thought that’s what it meant.

                Just quietly, Origin was born off the back of Queenslanders complaining…

    • July 12th 2018 @ 6:02pm
      Monday QB said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

      Don’t agree with the decision, but I also don’t think a player has to have played in all three matches or be on the winning side to win the award. In particular, the notion that an individual award for performance can’t go to a player whose team lost is a part of Australian sport that I just don’t get. Just as in a relay race (swimming or running) the fastest individual may not be on the winning team, many times the best player on a field/court is not on the winning team. That’s sport and to link something that’s about individual performance with something that’s about team performance is very simplistic and misguided in what you’re trying to achieve. The idea that you’ve got to have played in all 3 games I am more comfortable with, but don’t think it should exclude someone from being considered if they’ve had two exceptional games.

    • Roar Guru

      July 12th 2018 @ 6:04pm
      Nat said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:04pm | ! Report

      Are we going a little over the top on this Scott? While I may not agree with Billy getting the nod, have you ever disagreed with another WL medalist? If so, have you made calls for a system overhaul in reaction to that? You say you’re not questioning the judges integrity but I read this as a ‘let’s change the system because the judges have a relationship with the players’. To me, that’s a direct challenge on integrity. If it was 3 punters at the pub, we could argue they are not astute enough to judge. If Klemmer gets this award, we may scratch our heads but would the same article be written to overhaul the system?

      • Roar Guru

        July 12th 2018 @ 6:16pm
        Emcie said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:16pm | ! Report

        I don’t remember too many articles last year slamming the MOM award after Josh Jackson got it in a losing side. It was just viewed as an anomoly, much like this should be

        • Roar Guru

          July 12th 2018 @ 6:31pm
          steve b said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

          Because Jackson was the best in the series last year . Slater definitely wasn’t.

          • Roar Guru

            July 12th 2018 @ 6:41pm
            Emcie said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

            Jackson was the best? Geez, no wonder they lost…

            • Roar Guru

              July 12th 2018 @ 8:37pm
              The Barry said | July 12th 2018 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

              Jackson won the NSW player of the series award in 2016, not the Lewis medal.

              Come off it Emcie, there was a massive outcry about Jackson getting the MOM award in game 2 last year.

          • Roar Guru

            July 12th 2018 @ 8:24pm
            Renegade said | July 12th 2018 @ 8:24pm | ! Report

            Jackson was definitely not the best in the series last year and there was an argument he wasn’t the best in game 2 either…

        • Roar Guru

          July 12th 2018 @ 6:50pm
          Nat said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

          Maybe if NSW were very dominant I could understand the outrage. The games were close and Slater was a key difference in Qlds team where NSW had some players rise and fall across the 3 games. Does it matter, no. Next year, when we look at the trophy cabinet, no one is pointing that a Qlder is reigning WL medalist.

          • Roar Guru

            July 12th 2018 @ 7:01pm
            Emcie said | July 12th 2018 @ 7:01pm | ! Report

            It’s a bit funny that people were saying that QLD were the better team in game 2 but NSW converted their chances, but apparently the best player over the series was definately from NSW, we just can’t decide which

            • July 12th 2018 @ 7:17pm
              Monday QB said | July 12th 2018 @ 7:17pm | ! Report

              Yes, the whole argument that the best player of a series (or indeed a match) must come from the winning team is very unsophisticated. I don’t agree with the Slater decision, but to argue it is incorrect on the basis that he wasn’t on the winning team is to confuse the idea of an individual performance award (like man of the match or series) with a team performance.

            • Roar Guru

              July 12th 2018 @ 7:18pm
              eagleJack said | July 12th 2018 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

              Yeah at first I was shocked when Slater was named. But I moved on pretty quickly, and have been surprised to see it’s been the major talking point today.

              When all is said and done Slater would swap the WLM for a series victory in a heartbeat. And ultimately that’s all that really matters.

            • Roar Guru

              July 12th 2018 @ 8:41pm
              The Barry said | July 12th 2018 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

              It’s not funny at all. There were several NSW players that were better than Slater across the series. Tedesco statistically blew Slater off the park and was far more influential in the outcome of the series.

              Good luck to Slater he’s had a great career but that was a shonky decision that has highlighted a massive flaw in the selection process.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2018 @ 9:42pm
                Emcie said | July 12th 2018 @ 9:42pm | ! Report

                In the last 2 games when QLD were on top Slater was heavily involved, and QLD spent a fair bit of time on top over the last 2 games. Teddy wouldn’t have been in the top 4 players last night so essentially they’re both fighting over 2 games worth of points so it’s not inconcievable that Slater might have piped him by a point or two under this system. I’m not saying I would have picked him, but any system that relies on collating scores from individuals is going to favour averages over standout performances.

                There were also a couple players that only played a single game that would have taken points out of the availible pool which would have contributed. At the end of the day at worst its an anomaly, I’m not sure the level of outrage is justified

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2018 @ 10:02pm
                The Barry said | July 12th 2018 @ 10:02pm | ! Report

                I get it what you’re saying about the outrage…it’s not necessarily outrage though and it does leave a bad taste in the mouth…I don’t think Slater deserves it.

                So Tedesco gets maximum points in game one. Slater gets the points in game three.

                So it comes down to game two. Tedesco was better than Slater. Slater looked dangerous in the first twenty of minutes or so but was quiet after that.

                The other anomaly is that Slater wasn’t Queenslands best last night. DCE was unquestionably better. The selectors have let sentiment affect their judgement.

              • Roar Guru

                July 12th 2018 @ 10:19pm
                Emcie said | July 12th 2018 @ 10:19pm | ! Report

                I think we need to pick which thread we’re discussing this on if we’re going to continue…

                Look, I wouldn’t say DCE was unquestionable better watching it at the game. Slaters workload is crazy and he was a massive part of shutting down NSWs plays behind the scenes, especially in the first half. As I said above, for me it was a toss up between them.

                Slater’s also been great in both his performances, Teddy had a great game, a not quite as good game and a relatively quiet game. I’m not sold on Teddy being the best Blue over the series either (regarding a top four scoring system), Maloney had two great games, Cook was solid all series and Turbo Tom probably had the most effect in Game 3.

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 7:28am
                The Barry said | July 13th 2018 @ 7:28am | ! Report

                But NSW players aren’t necessarily just taking points off other NSW players. The only two things that are relevant are who played better between the two of them and were either in the points. It’s irrelevant if there were three better NSW players than Tedesco, if he still the fourth best on the field.

                We could probably go round and round all day but it’s pretty much inconceivable to me that someone would rate Slater higher than Tedesco in game 2 which is pretty much what it comes down to. I actually thought Teddy was MOM in that game as well – I think (hope😉) I wrote that in Scott’s ratings article after the game so I’m not just retro fitting that opinion.

                In game 3 DCE got Queensland about six or so repeat sets, kicked well in general play, tackled well, scored a try and laid on the “almost” try for Slater (who dropped four points over the line). I get you about what you don’t see on TV versus the game.

                Anyway, this will all be forgotten about in a week. For the record I’m not a Slater hater…I had a personal experience with him many years ago that I’ve written about here previously that I really respect him for. I’ve written many times over that he’s the best fullback I’ve ever seen.

                I think it’s a shame in some ways that this has happened. Whether it’s a fault of the scoring system, sentiment, a combination, whatever, he wasn’t the best player of the series. I think he showed how good he is and I think he showed that he’s a great player regardless of who’s playing around him but he didn’t do enough to be player of the series.

                Although in a few years time when we’re all arguing who of this generation should be immortals, I could very well be leaning on “2018 Wally medal…in a losing side, no less” among his achievements…👍

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 9:58am
                Emcie said | July 13th 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

                Hate to break it to you but here’s your quote- “I thought Jake Trbojevic was outstanding and arguably NSW best in a team game where there weren’t standouts” 😉

                Look, I don’t actually care who got the medal, I wouldn’t have picked Slater but I wouldn’t have picked Teddy either, all I’m saying is that Slater wasn’t that far out of contention to justify the amount of airtime this story has recieved.

                My objection to all the complaints is that all through the lead up to this game the naratives (in the media) were “blue whitewash”, “blue dynasty”, “NSW to dominate AUS selection”, “DCE’s been set up as a scapegoat” etc etc. But then QLD wins in one of the best origin games for a while and apparently the biggest talking point is who won some arbitary medal usually viewed as a footnote in the post game celebrations. Both NRL360 and The Matty Johns show last night treated it as the biggest issue of the week (with the usual agendas thrown in) and we’ve already had 5 or so articles on the Roar about it. I mean come on, the outrage is massively out of proportion

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 12:52pm
                The Barry said | July 13th 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

                Haha…nice one Sherlock…I had a bad feeling I was going to dob myself in there.

                Anyway wrong article. This is what I wrote about Tedesco:

                “Teddy “only” ran for 144 metres on Sunday night. That’s the first origin game he hasn’t run for 200 which is remarkable given he’s now played six games.
                He had a try assist and a great try saving tackle on Ponga following the linebreaks on Sunday.
                I thought he was close to NSW’s best again…”

                https://www.theroar.com.au/2018/06/26/tedesco-absolute-genius/

                Doesn’t prove anything but I just wanted to clarify that I had made commented on Teddy’s performance contemporaneously and not just pulled it out now.

                For the record this is what you wrote about Slater’s game 2 performance

                “Slater was involved in everything for the first 30 but seemed to take a step back once Ponga came on around the 20 minute mark which seemed to be part of the gameplan. I’m not sure Slater was countered (Mitchell tackled Munster on the opposite side of the field…) so much as Ponga took his place in the attacking structures. QLD certainly looked a lot more dangerous with Munster combining with Slater then with Ponga chiming in. I think Kevie should be under some pressure after the loss but not because Slater was “shut down” “

                https://www.theroar.com.au/2018/06/25/nsw-win-blues-take-origin-2-thriller-win-2018-series/

                Surely you can understand some of the disappointment, if not the outrage at having an opponent on the losing team who only played two games getting man of the series. I’m sure there’d be the same reaction if it happened in reverse. Multiply that by two series wins in 13 years and it does feels like a slap in the face.

                I get that’s an emotional response but the objective explanation doesn’t really provide much comfort and there’s still gaps in how Slater could get the WLM, even allowing for 4-3-2-1’s.

                To be fair I haven’t come up with any of the “bluewash” or “dynasty” junk. I’ve been bagged by NSW supporters for not agreeing that NSW would win game one by 40 points or that NSW would win 3-0 or that this is the start of a dynasty.

                Last year I was called a hater and a traitor for suggesting the game one victory wasn’t as conclusive as it looked and that there were significant issues with NSW edge defence.

                After game one I argued to the point of embarrassing myself that Maloney’s pass to JAC was forward.

                I admit I’m biased when it comes to Origin (footy in general) but I generally at least try to be objective. This one does leave a bad taste though.

              • Roar Guru

                July 13th 2018 @ 3:34pm
                Emcie said | July 13th 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

                As I said, I wouldn’t have picked Slater but I can understand how he beat others to it under the system. Slater was in the top 2 players for his state in every game he played, Teddy was in the top 4 or 5 in his team in the games he played. Even so called experts at NRL.com have 5 different Blues players as player of the series.

                I have no trouble understanding the disappointment, I’m surprised that the disappointment around a post match award is so much greater then the disappointment from losing a game pumped up to be proof of where NSW were headed that it’s essentially dominated any discussion of the game. The outrage being fanned by the media (not you Scotty) has been massively disproportionate to the “offence”. If any one of the 5 other players had been selected there’s be a quick report with a couple coments arguing for someone else and that would be it, but because it’s this one player the topic deserves to completely overshadow the game.

    • July 12th 2018 @ 6:26pm
      diamond said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

      Like thousands of others I cant believe Slater got this award surely Greg Inglis deserved it hehe. For mine DCE man of the match and the Wally award to either of the Troboevics. and not a manly fan either.

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