NRL fans were left fuming on Monday night when the Dally M winner has leaked online hours before the actual announcement.
Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton claimed the award in a dramatic count during a final-round NRL shootout with Clint Gutherson and Nathan Cleary.
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Monday night’s Dally M Awards were bizarre for a number of reasons, but the strangest was due to a media outlet accidentally publishing the winner online before it was announced.
A story appeared on The Daily Telegraph website as the awards ceremony was starting, forcing Fox Sports production staff to confiscate contenders’ phones to guard the secret.
It spoiled what was a shock result, with Wighton claiming the medal ahead of Gutherson and Cleary.
However Wighton said none of the players knew the result beforehand.
“Halfway through they took our phones so we weren't sure why,” Wighton said.
“We had no idea.”
Fans weren’t as forgiving as Wighton however.
— Chloe-Amanda Bailey (@ChloeAmandaB) October 19, 2020
— andrew brandreth (@andybrandreth80) October 19, 2020
My problem is a result that can be bet upon is known and leaked to journalists before the event occurs.
This is scandalous. But? Are we really surprised? Dally M awards are a joke for this reason.
If PVL doesn't do something to fix it, telegraph have gotten away with murder
— Aaron L Speer (@Aaron_Speer) October 19, 2020
So disappointing and unprofessional from @dailytelegraph releasing the winner of the Dally M medal before it was officially announced live on TV. This award is suppose to be the highest accolade a player can receive in the game and it is treated as a joke #DallyM #NRL
— Mitchell Laver (@mitchlaverr) October 19, 2020
NRL want investigation into Dally M leak
And the NRL are said to be fuming as well.
“The NRL want an investigation into this, they want to know how this happened,” Channel Nine reporter Danny Weidler revealed on 100% Footy on Monday night.
“What they're also particularly angry about is the story that was leaked, it was critical of the award that Jack Wighton got. So, it was a double-whammy for them.
“It's not the fault of the journalist who wrote the story, he was doing his job.
“It's probably the fault of the people who produce the actual paper, and there will be questions asked about that.
“Obviously, it's an accident this has happened. But this is an accident the NRL is really angry about because it's taken away a lot of the gloss from the award.
“I had a brief chat to Andrew Abdo and it's fair to say they're very upset about two elements of it. I think the criticism of the award, it's made the journalist look bad because he was critical of the award, and he'll be feeling very embarrassed about it all. And now I think the game has to look at this whole situation because it really is a poor look for the game.
“This is supposed to be the prestigious moment off-field for the game when the awards night occurs, and it's just a really poor look. It makes the game look really silly.”
The Penrith Panthers are also upset that the result was known beforehand, yet Nathan and Ivan Cleary were made to attend the event when they should be preparing for this weekend’s grand final.
“It's all a bit disappointing,” Panthers boss Brian Fletcher told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Good luck to the winner, he's a deserving winner, but to be sitting there waiting for something that has already been announced is disappointing.
“It wouldn't worry Nathan. He would have been hoping he won it, but he didn't and now we just get on with it and prepare for the grand final.
“Nathan is only 22, he will have plenty of time in his career to win it.”
Wighton appeared genuinely shocked despite his stellar season for the Raiders in which he took on the bulk of the attack with star hooker Josh Hodgson sidelined with injury.
He was rested for the final round of the season, but neither Cleary or Gutherson polled votes either.
“Even towards the end I was writing myself off, missing that last game. It was a massive shock to receive,” Wighton said.
“I was going to give Ricky a phone call for that. I can't believe it happened to be fair.”
It was the first ever virtual event, with players and presenters filming in separate studios but appearing as though they were in the same room via special broadcast effects.
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