Braith Anasta hits back amid uproar over Shaun Johnson moment during Dally M count

NRL fans were left fuming over the host's actions late in the ceremony as Kalyn Ponga won the medal.

Shaun Johnson and Braith Anasta.
Braith Anasta copped some flak for his actions towards Shaun Johnson during the Dally M vote count. Image: Fox Sports

Braith Anasta has responded amid widespread criticism from fans about a controversial moment during Wednesday night's Dally M ceremony. Kalyn Ponga walked away with the prestigious medal after pipping Shaun Johnson by a single point in a decision that has divided opinion in the NRL world.

Warriors fans have been left fuming that Johnson didn't get the gong, with many of the belief that he had the better overall season than Ponga. And amid the uproar, Warriors fans were also crying foul about Anasta's actions late in the vote count.

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There was a bizarre moment when Anasta was reading out the votes for the games in round 25, with the Fox Sports presenter saying: "Shaun Johnson - no points". Traditionally, players' names are only read out when they have received points, meaning everyone was expecting Johnson to have picked up some points in round 25 because Anasta called his name.

But there was mass confusion when Anasta said "no points", with cameras showing Johnson's face drop when hearing it. Johnson sarcastically called out "thanks mate" as those in attendance broke out into awkward laughter, with many questioning if Anasta was trying to make an ill-timed joke at the Warriors player's expense.

Social media exploded over the strange moment, with many slamming Anasta and labelling his actions 'pathetic' and 'disgraceful'. But the NRL 360 host moved to explain his actions on Thursday night.

Anasta said he was simply reading off a script and wasn't trying to crack a joke at Johnson's expense. The 41-year-old revealed he was trying to express the significance of the fact that Johnson hadn't picked up any points in round 25 because it meant Ponga could still leap-frog him in round 26 (which he did).

"I copped a bit of crap over the last 24 hours about supposedly making a joke by saying 'zero points' for Shaun Johnson," Anasta said on NRL 360 on Thursday night. "It's crazy for people to suggest that I'd make a joke out of a guy who has had a tremendous season, arguably the best player in the competition, who's vying for the biggest award that we can achieve individually in the game.

Kalyn Ponga, pictured here with the Dally M medal.
Kalyn Ponga won the Dally M medal by a single point over Shaun Johnson. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

"I played for 16 years and I know the significance of these awards and it's not a place for any joking. I'm reading a script. At one point it was a significant moment that Shaun Johnson got zero points because it therefore gave everyone the opportunity to see that if Kalyn got six points in the second-last round of the year (because they both didn't play the last), he would win the Dally M medal.

"For some reason everyone thought I was just up there ad-libbing and trying to crack jokes, but it's not something I would ever want to do on purpose. It was toe-to-toe and coming down to the wire and we had to specify that he was only five points behind because Shaun Johnson didn't poll any votes in that game. Whether you like it or not that's how it panned out. It certainly wasn't a joke."

Braith Anasta cops backlash over Shaun Johnson moment

At the end of round 25, Johnson was leading Ponga by two points (52 to 50). Johnson polled three votes in round 26, but Ponga got six to win the medal by a count of 56 votes to 55. Both players didn't feature in the last round of the regular season in round 27, and it proved decisive.

While Anasta was rightly trying to convey how close the tally was and how it would be decided in the round 26 voting, he probably should have waited until after all the votes were read out to comment on how significant it was that Johnson hadn't got any in round 25. Many pointed out on social media that it was quite cruel to read out Johnson's name before declaring "zero points".

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