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Jack Wighton wins 2020 Dally M Medal after surprise victory was revealed too early

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19th October, 2020
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Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton has won the 2020 Dally M Medal, finishing just a single point ahead of Parramatta’s Clint Gutherson and two ahead of Nathan Cleary, the man tipped by many to take home the award.

However, what should have been a surprise victory was spoilt before the awards ceremony even begun, with the Daily Telegraph publishing an article revealing (and criticising) Wighton’s win before it was officially announced.

With the leaderboard published by the Telegraph proving to be accurate, the NRL will be glad that wagering on the Dally M awards was banned this year after a betting scandal was uncovered in relation to last year’s ceremony.

The horrendous publishing error raised the ire of the NRL, who were described as being “ropeable” by the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as the Panthers, who had the logistical challenge of sending Ivan and Nathan Cleary to the awards night while adhering to the league’s COVID-safe bubble protocols ahead of their grand final this weekend, only to find out their halfback had run third in the prestigious medal before the ceremony began.

“Good luck to the winner, he’s a deserving winner, but to be sitting there waiting for something that has already been announced is disappointing,” Panthers CEO Brian Fletcher told the Herald.

“It wouldn’t worry Nathan. He would have been hoping he won it, but he didn’t and now we just get on with it and prepare for the grand final. Good luck to the winner. Nathan is only 22, he will have plenty of time in his career to win it.”

The early reveal also detracted from what should have been a thrilling race for the Dally M. All of Wighton, Gutherson and Cleary were in the running heading into the final round, but with Wighton being rested for Canberra’s last match of the regular season, both Gutherson and Cleary were theoretically a chance of sneaking home late to grab the award.

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Instead, they also polled zero votes from Round 20, leaving the final leaderboard exactly as it was published hours beforehand.

However that should not take away from Wighton’s win, with the Canberra five-eighth garnering all three votes an incredible eight times in the shortened season. He enjoyed a stellar year for the Raiders, following up from last season’s Clive Churchill Medal by guiding his injury-plagued side to the preliminary finals.

Meanwhile, Brisbane Broncos star Ali Brigginshaw won the Female Player of the Year award, Ivan Cleary took home coach of the year, and Harry Grant was named the NRL’s top rookie after an outstanding breakout season for the Tigers.

2020 Dally M Medal top five

Winner: Jack Wighton (26 votes)
2nd: Clint Gutherson (25)
3rd: Nathan Cleary (24)
4th: Cameron Smith (22)
5th: Luke Keary & Shaun Johnson (18)

Full list of 2020 Dally M Award winners

Dally M Player of the Year: Jack Wighton
Dally M Female Player of the Year: Ali Brigginshaw
Coach of the Year: Ivan Cleary
Rookie of the Year: Harry Grant
Captain of the Year: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Provan-Summons People’s Choice Medallist: New Zealand Warriors
Ken Irvine Medallist for leading tryscorer: Alex Johnston
Top pointscorer: Adam Reynolds
Peter Frilingos Headline Moment of the Year: The NRL’s Project Apollo
NRLW Rookie of the Year: Kennedy Cherrington
NRLW tackle of the year: Hannah Southwell
NRLW try of the year: Madison Bartlett
VB Hard Earned Player of the Year Award: Jake Trbojevic & Tohu Harris
Try of the year: Kotoni Staggs vs Dragons, Rd 15
Tackle of the year: Josh Papalii vs Titans, Rd 15

2020 Dally M Team of the Year

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Props: Josh Papalii and James Fisher-Harris
Hooker: Cameron Smith
Second-rowers: Viliame Kikau and Tohu Harris
Lock: Isaah Yeo
Halfback: Nathan Cleary
Five-eighth: Jack Wighton
Centres: Kotoni Staggs and Stephen Crichton
Wingers: David Nofoaluma and Josh Addo-Carr
Fullback: Clint Gutherson