The Roar
The Roar


The NBA solution which would fix broken Dally M voting system to avoid more Hammer blows

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Roar Rookie
15th March, 2024

The Dally M voting system has long been a point of contention for NRL fans. In 2023, the NRL implemented changes by having two judges award votes on each game and making judges anonymous.

But the voting issues have persisted. Judges often just tick the box of star players when unable to think of anyone else. Such box ticking was evident in a couple of votes from the opening round.

As a Cronulla fan, I was shocked that Nicho Hynes was awarded any points, let alone three from each judge. He defended strongly but was wasteful in attack and struggled to find his footing.

Not to be outdone, one judge later in Round 1 decided to give Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who spent the better part of the second half finding ways not to catch a ball. I can only imagine the judge thought the Hammer was still playing for the Cowboys and counted his grubber to Helium Luki as a try assist.

Now there’s an important distinction to be made between disagreeing with someone’s vote and a vote that is so lazy and biased that the judge’s credibility has to be questioned.

There’s one game in particular that ignited my scepticism of Dally M voters and the system at large. It was Round 1 2019 and the Cowboys defeated the Dragons 24-12.

Justin Hodges was the judge for that game and decided to give Jordan Kahu one point for his performance.


Hodges (a former teammate of Kahu’s) voted that Kahu was the third best player on the field with the following stat line – 10 runs for 76 metres with 2 tackle breaks and 15 minutes spent taking a Head Injury Assessment. I implore any fan to find the footage of that game and think of any possible way Hodges could justify that selection.

Votes like this led me to think about a better way of awarding the medal. The Dally M is for the best and fairest player in the game for that year, which provides important historical context for future generations on who was the best at any given time.

Players have performance incentives linked to the medal and deserve to have the process be as foolproof as possible. So, after careful consideration, I present my revamped Dally M voting system.

Firstly, I would do away with the 3-2-1 system for every game. It disadvantages players who are on competitive teams and may steal points from each other, as well as stopping lazy judges from voting for the usual suspects without accounting for their actual performance in that game.

Instead, I would have a group of voters rank the best players from 1st to 5th and adopt a Borda Count Method. Already utilised in the NBA for its Most Valuable Player award, a Borda Count assigns a player points based on the position they are ranked.

The NBA assigns 10 points for a first-place vote, 7 points for a second-place vote, 5 points for a third-place vote, 3 points for a fourth-place vote, and 1 point for a fifth-place vote.


The totals are then aggregated with the player with the most points winning the award. (As an aside you may think ‘No shit Sherlock’ but after working in retail you can never be too sure when explaining anything.)

This system accounts for a player’s overall form and impact on the competition, saving judges from having to scramble through team lists to find a player to give one point to after a scrappy 6-4 win by the Titans against the Tigers on a rainy Thursday night in Campbelltown.

The caveat I would add is that the voting takes place in trimesters, after rounds 9, 18, and 27. The reason for this is to eliminate recency bias for a player who finishes the year in strong form, ignoring their start to the season. Some of the judges, as evidenced in the Round 1 results, have a difficult time remembering the start of a game let alone the start of the year. Dividing the voting periods into thirds and then combining the votes at the end of the year is the only way to truly reflect who was the best player throughout the year.

The votes will also be made public. Accountability is important and you should have to put your name to what you voted. I understand the NRL wants to protect voters from online abuse, but if we hide behind anonymity to avoid backlash then no one will ever share opinions.

No system is perfect. Under the new system, former winners such as Kalyn Ponga and Tom Trbojevic may not have won the award due to time missed at the beginning of the year. However, the current process behind the award is clearly broken. Votes like what happened in the opening round are bound to continue without changes to the system itself.