The Dally M awards. My favourite night (this year, two nights) of the year.

Each and every year, without fail, Rugby League's "night of nights" throws up plenty of discussion points.

Last year it was the award winner himself. Jack Wighton was an outsider to say the very least. Meanwhile, Nathan Cleary was the best player in the competition by a mile yet left empty-handed.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 19: Jack Wighton of the Canberra Raiders poses after winning the Dally M Medal following the Dally M Awards at Fox Sports Studios on October 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

There's been betting scandals, tied winners and deserved medal contenders robbed of their chance to win the award due to suspensions or ridiculous point allocations.

One year we even had points awarded by a judge who didn't watch the game live.

2021 won't see anything of that nature occur as a brand new, two-day format has been unveiled.

Monday's coverage on Fox Sports ran through multiple awards and narrowed the Dally M announcement down to five players.

Those five players being Tom Trbojevic, James Tedesco, Dally Cherry-Evans, Nathan Cleary and Cody Walker.

Five brilliant players. Three genuine contenders. No Storm players.

You read that correctly; not one player from the minor premiership-winning Storm were worthy of being named in the top five players this season.

I would argue, vigorously, that Jahrome Hughes was far more influential this season than Tedesco or Cherry Evans.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 12: Jahrome Hughes of the Storm is tackled during the round 22 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on August 12, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

That's not to say either had bad seasons. Tedesco was forced to carry the Roosters for literally months. That said, I'm taking Hughes' 2021 season over Teddy's every day of the week.

Someone convince me that Nicho Hynes wasn't worthy of a top-five finish this season!?

He was the player of the competition during his run at fullback. He outplayed everyone. The fact he played fewer games than others will see him largely forgotten in the Dally M race.

How does a team who finished atop the NRL ladder after 24 games not have a single player in the top five best players award!?

For those unaware of how the medal is awarded, it is based on total points given by a judge each game on a 3-2-1 basis.

A player who has three try assists but is the fourth-best player in a 40-0 win collects zero points. Meanwhile, a player who has a decent game in a horrible performance can grab a point.

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The fact Justin Olam didn't even make the initial shortlist of best centres says it all. This is despite the fact he has been the game's best centre in 2021.

He won't accrue the points required given the likes of Hughes, Smith, Munster, Hynes, Papenhuyzen, Grant and the like are taking points each weekend.

Not one of the top five players presents an egregious choice. They were all brilliant in 2021.

That said, Tedesco has had his least brilliant (an underhanded compliment if I've ever had one) season in years.

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TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 09: James Tedesco of the Roosters runs the ball during the round nine NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Sydney Roosters at QCB Stadium on July 09, 2020 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

I guarantee you that the Storm's overall points tally will dwarf that of the Roosters. Yet no Storm player could amass the points to finish in the top five.

For the record, I believe the race will come down to Walker and 'Turbo'. The other three won't come into it. Or they shouldn't.

Nathan Cleary was on track to win the award in a canter before injury struck.

Turbo has been the most destructive player of the competition yet has missed enough games to create doubt in an award, on merit, he deserves to win.

The points system has long come under scrutiny and I can't see that changing. Heaven help the social media team posting the result should 'Turbo' not claim victory tonight.

MUDGEE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 17: Tom Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles scores a try during the round six NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Gold Coast Titans at Glen Willow Sporting Complex, on April 17, 2021, in Mudgee, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Either way though, I believe it's time for that long, long overdue overhaul.

Surely the game's most prestigious award can't come down to who has played the most games or been above average in a below-average side.

The award should be presented to the best player of the season. That has been Tom Trbojevic.

Let's hope by this time next week we're not lamenting yet another shock or controversy when it comes to the supposed most sought after individual's honour in the game.


  1. Am I happy with two nights rather than one? No. In want it all on one night, please, not strung out to get more viewers for the broadcaster.
    As to your comments on great players not getting into the short-list, they are valid – but that is inevitable given the 3-2-1 structure of the votes.

    For every complex question, there is usually a simple answer – and the simple answer is usually wrong! Here is my simple solution.
    1) Score each match 5-4-3-2-1, so more players can get votes.
    2) At the end of the season determine the result by taking the AVERAGE vote per game, for each player.
    3) To be eligible, each player must have played a minimum of TEN games. (This will eliminate any player who plays a couple of brilliant rounds and scores high marks, then sits out the rest of the season injured or suspended.)

  2. Firstly, while it isn’t fair that someone can miss a chunk of the season and still be outstanding the rest of the time, you can’t by the same token penalize other players for the simple reason that they’ve gone through a season uninjured. Who’s to say, for example, that Turbo might not have put in a series of crappy games during those games he missed?

    The easiest solution for all concerned, one that recognizes talent yet shows fairness to those who put in more games, is to arrive at some kind of figure – say 16 games as an example – from the season that can count towards each player’s resume for the season. Thus if a player like Turbo misses 6 games at the beginning of the season, they won’t be counted towards the total. For a player who’s been on the paddock for all 24 games, the 16 games in which he notched the most medal points would be counted, while the 6 lowest scoring would be ditched. Obviously there’s a slight favoritism towards the players who turn out the most, because there’ll be 24 games to pair down to the best 16-game total, but that’s only fair.

    As for the points situation per game, the way the points are judged has long worked against top teams stacked with talent – there’s so many to choose from week to week. The reverse applies to other teams where players who wouldn’t even get a look in at teams like Melbourne or the Roosters (injury free!) still manage to garner maximum points their efforts really don’t deserve in the greater scheme of things – hence the bolters we occasionally get winning the medal.

    By far the easiest and fairest way around it is to ditch the antiquated system presently in use and just go for a system that scores ALL the players in a game, even subs, out of 10. That’s far fairer to the top teams and players, as well as giving a fairer assessment to average players on average teams.

    On a team like Melbourne at its peak, why shouldn’t Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, and Cooper Cronk each get 10 out of 10 in a game together if their respective performances merit it, instead of being handicapped for simply being three outstanding players on the same outstanding team? How ridiculous does it look if Cronk ends up being the one getting the single point, while some no-name halfback on another team gets three points for a level of play that doesn’t even come close to Cronk’s standard?

    Look at Turbo or Tedesco this season. They would have been ringing the bells with scores habitually in the range between 8 – 10, even in losing efforts. They, and all outstanding players, should get scores that reflect their level of play, regardless of the standard of their teams and team mates, and regardless of the results.

    Round it all out by having three independent judges at each game, and it should work beautifully and I think all concerned would be a lot happier.

  3. One small correction – I said the 6 lowest scoring would be ditched from a player’s total of 24. I meant 8. I was still thinking about the Turbo example of games missed through injury. 🙂

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