The outcry over Billy Slater being awarded the Wally Lewis Medal has overshadowed Wednesday night’s final Origin game, but what it has done is highlight a flaw in the voting system.
It has raised the question - how does a player, who only played two games, in a team that lost the series walk away with the medal?
"What system do you propose then?" Mal Meninga, who was on the judging panel alongside Darren Lockyer and Laurie Daley, fired back on the phone when contacted on Thursday morning.
My initial reaction was to enforce a rule that only a player who features in all three games can win the series.
Halfway through relaying that to Meninga, the realisation kicked in that such a blanket rule couldn’t work.
What would happen if James Tedesco was man of the match in games one and two and led NSW to a series victory, only to be rubbed out of game three through injury?
You couldn't then deny him the player of the series award. So that won’t work.
Maroons back Slater
Those questioning the credibility of Meninga, Daley and Lockyer have rocks in their head.
When speaking to Meninga, he admitted that as coaches and fans of the game, they all have their favourites. Slater is clearly one of them.
But if anyone genuinely believes they let their admiration for the game’s greatest fullback compromise their judgement or perhaps rorted it in any way, then they are in denial.
Under the official system, Meninga and his Kangaroos selectors each give 4-3-2-1 points to who they deem the best players in each game (four being the highest) and it’s tallied up at the end of the series.
Under that system, it is possible – unlikely but possible - for a player to win the award through gaining the maximum 12 points on offer in just one game.
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How is this fair?
Tedesco's performance in game one was one of the best by any Origin player in recent memory.
He produced more tries, more line breaks, more try assists, more line break assists and more tackle breaks in one game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground then Slater produced in games two and three combined.
So how is it fair that a performance for the ages is rewarded with the same votes as what could only be described as a very good game by Slater in a dead rubber?
It’s a flaw in the system that has only been identified because of the public’s bemusement in this year’s recipient.
The medal needs a system that truly represents the performances over a series as a whole.
What if it was based on a 1-10 ratings system? Because Tedesco deserved a 10 in game one, but Slater’s man of the match performance in game three wasn’t as influential. It was an 8.5 or 9 at best – yet under the current system, their respective performances are valued the same.
So what if Meninga and company gave each player in each game a score out of 10, similar to the system we've devised at NRL.com. Tedesco tallied 9, 7 and 7 throughout the three games of the series to get a combined score of 23.
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My method would be to combine the scores of all three judges to arrive at a final tally.
The fact the only four players can tally points is also concerning. Basically, we’re saying the fifth-best player on the field is valued as much as the 34th-best.
Some would argue the best four players (in no particular order) on the field on Wednesday night were Slater, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jake Trbojevic and Tom Trbojevic.
If they were the players who received points, how is it fair Damien Cook’s incredible showing is valued just as much as Tyrone Peachey’s brief stint in the final minutes of the contest?
Under a ratings system, a potential 7.5 or 8 out of 10 performance wouldn’t go unrewarded.
- NRL.com experts pick their Origin player of the series
- Queensland Maroons player ratings: State of Origin III
- NSW Blues player ratings: State of Origin III
Meninga acknowledged the fact NSW were a victim of their own success. The fact that several players enjoyed breakout games meant Blues players shared the points.
It’s like when Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Slater all used to take Dally M points off each other for the Storm, while someone like a Kalyn Ponga has been racking up all Newcastle’s points because he is far and away their best player.
The public outcry since Wednesday's post-game announcement suggests something isn’t quite right in the system if Slater – regardless of the fact he is likely a future Immortal – walked away with the medal around his neck. Perhaps it’s time for a change.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.