Dally M voting goes behind closed doors
Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith holds a five point lead in Dally M voting which has now gone 'dark' at the conclusion of Round 14.
Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce and Warriors fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck are leading the chasing pack five points behind, with Sharks captain Paul Gallen and Dragons recruit Paul Vaughan a point further back.
Billy Slater has wasted no time in his return to the NRL after two years hampered by injuries, amassing 13 points and is still in the hunt for the prestigious award, tied with Dragons half Gareth Widdop, who is still a chance despite missing three games through injury, Eels' Mr Fix It Clint Gutherson, Panthers' Matt Moylan and Cronulla's Wade Graham.
Voting is now behind closed doors ahead of the formal announcement of the winner in Sydney during Grand Final Week.
The black-tie event has earned a reputation for being rugby league's night of nights, from the red carpet to the vote count, which is screened live on Fox Sports.
The 2017 judging panel includes Greg Alexander, Danny Buderus, Brad Fittler, Mark Gasnier, Andrew Johns, Brett Kimmorley, Darren Lockyer, Peter Sterling and Kevin Walters.
Smith last won the coveted Dally M Medal in 2006. His Melbourne teammate Cooper Cronk was joint winner of the 2016 Dally M Medal, along with North Queensland's Jason Taumololo.
Players who are suspended throughout the season are deducted three Dally M points for each week of suspension. Any player who is suspended for two separate offences in any one season becomes ineligible for the Dally M Medal and Team of the Year.
The 2017 event will be the first following a revised voting process and structure of the awards undertaken by the NRL, designed to provide greater integrity and transparency.
Changes include an independent voting process, a new panel of judges (all former players), the capping of matches for judges and the restriction of consecutive voting on one team, a specifically developed app used to accumulate votes, as well as the addition of accounting firm Ernst and Young to audit the count ahead of the awards ceremony.
The new voting process will exclude media partners as well as the NRL from knowledge of votes until a point determined by the NRL for event delivery purposes.
NRL.com will be running an unofficial Dally M vote count for the remainder of the season – which is not representative of the official voting.
Dally M leaderboard at conclusion of Round 14
Jack de Belin