Penrith legend Craig Gower has savaged the NRL’s reasoning behind failing to retrospectively award him the 2003 Dally M medal – labeling their excuse as a “load of shit”.
Gower was the runaway favorite to claim rugby league’s top individual honor that year, having dominated for the Panthers all season, only to selflessly agree to Dally M boycott as part of the RLPA’s fight for improved wages and conditions.
The Daily Telegraph mounted a campaign two years ago to rectify the now 19-year injustice, prompting whispers Gower would be rightly honored with the award.
The former Penrith skipper even spoke to the NRL’s head of football elite competitions, Graham Annesley, but was left unimpressed when told the governing body had no way of determining if he’d “definitely” won it.
“I think it’s dead and buried really,” Gower told SEN Radio.
“From their point of view they can’t determine if I’ve definitely won it, which is a load of shit, really.
“Sometimes the powers that be have got their decisions they want to make. i don’t know how they get their information.
“From what I understand, I won’t it, but I can’t change that. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time.
“It gave the players access, which is good. We’ve got more of a say, which is what we were after.
“At the end of the day I’ll take a grand final win over a Dally M, but it’s certainly a nice accolade to have.”
6.59PM: DON’T PUT YOUR KEN IRVINE MEDAL THERE
They’re still filtering through on the red carpet – but there’s one award that could’ve been awarded in about Round 16.
Alex Johnston finished the year as the game’s leading tryscorer, with 28 at the end of the regular season before adding a further two in the finals series.
It’s a third-straight Ken Irvine medal for the South Sydney tryscoring freak, who joked he was going to use the award as a door stop.
“I don’t know what to do with this one…doorstop maybe,” Johnston said on Fox League.
“Just kidding. It’s a great honor and I love scoring tries.”
His favorite four-pointer this year? A simple effort against in a bash-up of the Wests Tigers – memorable because it made him South Sydney’s greatest ever tryscorer, overtaking Benny Wearing’s 144.
“I didn’t really have to do much, like most of my tries, I just caught it and put it down. but it was a pretty momentous occasion for myself and my family,” he said.
Jayme Fressard was the leading tryscorer in the WNRL, with five tries for the Sydney Roosters.
6.40PM: KEAON THE 2022 OSHAY OLAY
6.30PM: SUPERSTARS HIT THE RED CARPET
CASE FOR THE TOP CONTENDERS
The Dally M Medal is set for one of the closest counts in recent memory as up to six contenders vie for the NRL’s top individual award.
Will it be Mitch Moses, the architect of Parramatta’s Grand Final return? Or Nicho Hynes, arguably the recruit of the year after spearheading Cronulla’s top-two finish?
How about the most underrated player in Penrith’s all-conquering system — Dylan Edwards?
Queensland Origin hero Ben Hunt will enter tonight’s counting with a lead, but there’s no shortage of contenders to succeed Tom Trbojevic and join the NRL’s ultimate honor roll.
We will have all the awards covered from the NRL’s night of nights here.
BEN HUNT (Dragons)
Somebody stop him. Hunt led the Dally M with 19 points when voting went behind closed doors after round 12 and the Dragons playmaker is the red-hot favorite to clinch the biggest honor of his turbulent career.
The former Broncos halfback continued his strong form at the back end of the season, buoyed by his superb Origin campaign for the Maroons, scoring the try which sealed Queensland’s epic boilover of the Blues in the Suncorp decider.
In unofficial voting after round 12, News Corp’s team of league journalists gave Hunt four man-of-the-match awards in the run home, including the best-on-ground display in the Dragons’ final-round defeat of the Broncos.
Hunt is aided by the fact the struggling Dragons lacking the star power of premiership contenders, enabling the crafty No. 7 to dominate his side’s Dally M voting.
Incredibly, Hunt rejected the Dragons’ latest two-year offer just hour before the Dally M count.
MITCHELL MOSES (Eels)
The dark horse for the Dally M. Moses (15) was four points adrift of Hunt when voting went behind closed doors, putting the Eels schemer in the perfect position to launch a late-season strike.
While Moses missed some games with injury, he was at the epicenter of Parramatta’s charge into the top four.
In unofficial voting, the classy No. 7 polled points in five of the last games, including three man-of-the-match displays, completing a fine regular season with his carve up of the Storm in the final round.
Injury could prove his downfall, but don’t be surprised to see Moses stalking Hunt in the top five.
NICHO HYNES (Sharks)
Hunt regards Hynes as the biggest threat to his hopes of scaling the Dally M summit and it’s hard to disagree.
The former Storm utility provided a sensation in his first season at the Sharks. When voting went secret, Hynes (16) was third, one point ahead of Moses and, like his Eels rival, the Sharks schemer seemed to get better as the season progressed.
In unofficial voting, Hynes claimed points in six games and on four occasions, he collected the Big Three, headlined by back-to-back masterclasses against the Tigers and Manly in rounds 22 and 23.
If Hynes doesn’t prevail, he could go agonizingly close as the runner-up and Cronulla’s best performer since Preston Campbell tasted Dally M glory in 2001.
DYLAN EDWARDS (Panthers)
What a player. The Mr Underrated of Penrith’s premiership juggernaut.
Edwards was equal seventh on 13 points, six adrift of Hunt, after 12 rounds and Penrith’s possession of class players invariably means a host of Panthers will be stealing crucial Dally M points off one another.
The ever-reliable fullback claimed unofficial voting points in five games, including three best-on-ground efforts, notably his hatchet job of the Green Machine in round 21.
A top-five finish would be fine recognition for one of the code’s most bankable performers.
Originally published the NRL Dally M Awards live: Full count, predictions, winner, betting, favourites