2023 Dally M Awards
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 27: (L-R) 2023 NRL Dally M Medal winner and Fullback of the Year Kalyn Ponga of the Newcastle Knights poses with 2023 NRLW Dally M Medal winner and Fullback of the Year Tamika Upton of the Newcastle Knights during the 2023 Dally M Awards at The Winx Stand, Royal Randwick Racecourse on September 27, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Another year, another Dally M controversy.

It has become an annual tradition to spend the day or two after each Dally M award ceremony shaking your head at the process, only to go back to not caring.

The following will continue that very tradition.

Let me make this very clear before the comments are made - this is not a shot at Kalyn Ponga. In any way!

For the record I have no qualms with Ponga being named as the player of the year. Well, I wouldn't except for the fact that Shaun Johnson was clearly the best player in 2023.

Ponga though had a magnificent season and I'm on record as saying that in the final 10 weeks of the competition he was the best player in the game. I stand by that.

Over the entire 2023 season though? Not a chance. It was Johnson. Then daylight.

Although I may not have an issue with the winner, to a point, I do hold great issue with the ridiculous process we employ.

This year a change was made to the voting system to allow two judges to vote, rather than the one judge voting as per previous years.

The thinking behind it was that you would avoid the howlers. Where a judge misread the game and gave three points to someone that would leave your jaw on the floor.

Unfortunately though, it doubled the issue.

The six point maximum now meant that you could have three or four great games and be very much in the running.

We saw Ponga's brilliance over a two month period triumph over Shaun Johnson's full season of brilliance.

Again, not a shot at Ponga, or those who voted for him, but Ponga banked six points upon six points late on, while Johnson routinely polled points across many more games.

You will have to go a long way to find a bigger fan of Nicho Hynes than me, but the fact he finished two points off the lead, and one point behind Johnson, is ridiculous.

Hynes had a down year, compared to last year's efforts at least, and had he not missed four games due to injury, would have won the medal for a second straight year in a canter.

Scott Drinkwater, who was admittedly very good, was one game off top spot. He couldn't win it due to suspension but, again, how he could poll anywhere close to Johnson, makes no sense.

Missing from the top five were Payne Haas and Reece Walsh. Nathan Cleary too although he missed multiple games through injury.

For the record I believe we got the right winner in 2022. Undisputedly. Hynes was breathtaking in an otherwise average side. That result was the outlier though.

So, it's very easy to criticise - fun too! How do we fix it though?

I want to put forward two suggestions, and I'd love your feedback.

The first is expanding the "point" system to the way we do it here at Zero Tackle.

We have four judges who all watch the games independently. We award on the system of a 5-4-3-2-1. The top player receiving five and so on from there.

Our system ultimately produced a winner of Payne Haas.

I have no issues at all with Haas being named the winner. He was absolutely magnificent across the season and a very worthy winner.

Still not Shaun Johnson though. He finished second, ironically.

This system, I believe, is better as it allows the top five players to poll rather than the top three. Typically the top two were standouts, and then it becomes difficult.

Naming a third, fourth and fifth was usually easy. Sometimes the fifth was difficult.

This largely takes away from one of the biggest criticisms of the current Dally M system, players taking points off each other.

Dylan Edwards, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo were routinely in the best four in any given game. In every single game, one has to miss out. This would allow five players to poll.

It's not foolproof but I believe Haas had a better run over the entirety of 2023 than Ponga. Let's not forget he was awful early on, albeit out of position, and then missed time due to injury.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Payne Haas of the Broncos celebrates with team mate Reece Walsh of the Broncos after scoring a try during the round five NRL match between Brisbane Broncos and Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium on April 01, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The second suggestion is, in my view, the common sense approach - doing away with the points system altogether.

I fully understand it removes the "fun" of the awards night, although I would call it more a punish than fun, and would simply be compiling a list of votes.

I would suggest a similar system to that implemented by the NBA.

The coach, captain and media representatives of each club have a vote. At the end of the regular season they all submit that vote. No points, just a straight answer.

Again, no system is fool proof, but I have no doubt we would have arrived at the right winner last night.

If you want to take if off the captains, go for it. I take great issue with Craig Fitzgibbon handing Blayke Brailey a player of the year award when Nicho Hynes existed in 2023, so even the coaches make errors.

Find three representatives of each club.

The CEO, the coach and the captain. Add a local media representative if you have to. Just ensure there's a variety of outlets covered.

Each is asked to select their "MVP" of the season. Provide a top three list if you must, but I wouldn't over complicate it.

Three votes times 17 - 51 votes all up.

Whoever polls the highest is the Dally M medal winner.

If there is a tie, split it.

Once again, not foolproof, but much better than this current lottery we call a system.

The eye test is often the most accurate.

It's how they supposedly name the Team of the Year awards, which I remind you use to be awarded due to points. It was often inaccurate so they did away with it.

You can still hold your ceremony. Award both Dally M medals, name your team of the year and your community awards.

The ceremony would be much less streamlined, over far quicker and far less drab.

Plus we'd, more often than not, arrive at the correct winner over a full season rather than a peak run of form late on.

I think we can all agree that both of those outcomes would be huge victories!


  1. Even on a 5-4-3-2-1 marking system, players in one team take marks off each other.

    How about a 1-1-1-1-1 marking system? These were the five best players on the park in this game. That approach would benefit a player who is consistent throughout the season, rather than doing nothing for half a season, then kicking the doors down !

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