NRL top gong not what you think
As the season progresses and grows more interesting week by week, the question of who is the competition’s form player remains hotly debated. It’s often argued that the Dally M medal offers the clearest answer to this question. Whilst the Dally M is no doubt a prestigious award, I would argue that there is one greater personal accolade a player can receive.
The Clive Churchill medal is awarded each year to the best on ground in the grand final. Playing well on grand find day is no mean feat and the pressure can often see regular season form fly out the window. In fact, since the NRL era began in 1998, there have only been seven teams that have won the minor premiership and continued their season form to win the grand final. Evidently, it is hard for players to carry their season form into grand final day.
This is why I believe that it can be argued that the Clive Churchill medal is a more prestigious achievement. Whilst Dally M points are counted over 25 rounds of football, the Clive Churchill medal is a reflection of true champions and professionals that can step up when they are needed the most. There are champions of the game such as Ricky Stuart, Allan Langer, Darren Lockyer, and more recently, Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess that haven’t received the Dally M medal but have displayed professional performances and lead their team to victory when the pressure is well and truly on.
Conversely, Jarryd Hayne, Todd Carney and Ben Barba have had scintillating seasons that will be remembered for decades and were each rewarded with the Dally M Medal but were not able to get the job done on Grand Final day that season. They are all terrific players that each had great years, but they will likely all retire without a premiership (except Barba) and, significantly, without a Clive Churchill medal.
Although the Dally M is still a great achievement and could well be considered the most prestigious individual honour in rugby league, there are strong reasons to value the Clive Churchill medal just as much, if not more. With the season being so unpredictable this year, it’s difficult to know which players can step up on the most important day of the year.