Manly legend Cliff Lyons says he would have been smashed on social media had it have been around in his day, offering support to South Sydney superstar Latrell Mitchell and others who endure constant abuse. Lyons was delighted to accept an invitation from the NRL to present the Clive Churchill Medal to the grand final man-of-the-match on Sunday night, replacing the unavailable Peter Sterling.
Following Rod Churchill's scathing criticism of Mitchell, it was decided the son of Immortal Clive Churchill would be replaced by former medal winners in handing out the prestigious gong. Sterling, as the first CCM winner in 1986, was unavailable due to a previous commitment so Lyons – the 1987 recipient – will step in.
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"I'm pretty chuffed about it. (NRL CEO) Andrew Abdo called me and asked if I was keen and I was," the former Sea Eagles five-eighth told Yahoo Sport Australia. "Unfortunately, Sterlo couldn't get there but I'm available and looking forward to it.
"I remember that day (in '87) and my name being called out for the award. It was pretty thrilling and exciting. It's a big part of grand final day and I'm happy to be part of it."
While Rod Churchill's attack on Mitchell was published in the mainstream media, the social media pile-on off the back of it was intense. Lyons feels for the modern-day player and is glad he didn't have to deal with keyboard warriors during his playing days.
"It’s a new brand of attacking someone and they can't seem to do anything about it," he said. "It has a big bearing on a person's feelings. It's disappointing to see it and I'm glad it wasn't around in my day.
"I didn't always play well but at least I didn't have to read about it on my mobile phone. I'm sure they would have come for me or any player from my era had it been around."
Cliff Lyons sends supportive message to Latrell Mitchell
When it was suggested Lyons, a proud Indigenous man like Mitchell, was the perfect person to step in as CCM presenter, he said: "I didn't really think about it that way. I heard about it (the Rod Churchill drama) but didn’t follow the story all that closely.
"I've met him (Mitchell) a few times and he's a good kid and a very good footballer. I love watching him play and hope he's going okay."
Souths players had reportedly threatened to boycott the Clive Churchill medal if they made the grand final in the future, but that was before the NRL decided to give the honour of awarding it to past winners. Mitchell won the Ken Stephen Medal for community work at Wednesday night's Dally M ceremony, but wasn't in attendance.
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