Gorden Tallis has revealed he was one of the two previously unnamed judges who decided the Dally M medal this year. Kalyn Ponga walked away with the prestigious gong after beating Shaun Johnson by a solitary point in a thrilling but controversial vote count.
Many were left fuming that Johnson didn't get the Dally M, pointing out that Johnson had a better overall season compared to Ponga's sensational second half. Discussing the situation on NRL 360 on Thursday night, the panellists suggested Johnson was hard done by.
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But when Phil Rothfield said the judges were to blame for Ponga getting the gong, Tallis fired back and revealed he was one of the two who awarded the votes. "I'm a judge, so it's my opinion on the player," Tallis said. "So you can't blame the judges."
Fans were up in arms over the fact that Johnson didn't poll a single vote in round 25, despite providing a try assist and kicking a match-sealing field goal in a 29-22 win over Manly. However Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jason Saab both scored hat-tricks in the game, while Addin Fonua-Blake has huge with 193 running metres and 65 post-contact metres.
The other questionable decision regarding Johnson came in round 23 when he only garnered five votes rather than the maximum six despite scoring two tries in a starring performance against the Titans. One of the judges only gave Johnson two points rather than three despite him being the standout player in the 28-18 win.
Shaun Johnson responds amid Dally M controversy
But for all the backlash and criticism of the votes and the actual process, Johnson has declared he wasn't robbed. The Warriors halfback led the count 52-50 after round 25, but Ponga leap-frogged Johnson with six points in round 26 compared to Johnson's three. Ponga and Johnson both didn't play in the final round in round 27, which meant the penultimate round decided the winner.
"Congrats Kalyn but everyone knows it, SJ was robbed," Warriors player Jazz Tevaga posted in a now-deleted Instagram story. "This is almost as bad as that forward pass (from Reece Walsh in the preliminary final)."
But Johnson offered a classy response on Thursday, saying: "I wasn't (robbed). I thought Kalyn had a great year. He was the centrepiece of the Knights going on their run. It was a really special run that he went on, so if there was going to be a person I thought that was going to get it, I thought it was going to be him."
The Kiwi said his belief grew as the count went on despite not initially thinking he could win the gong. "As the night goes on, and they string you along and it gets your heart racing, I'm like 'maybe I am a genuine chance of winning it'," Johnson said.
"At some point in the night I started (thinking) about it, and I was like, 'far out this is pretty cool recognition'. Obviously gutted I didn't walk away with it because it would have been cool to have."
The 33-year-old revealed he was ready to walk away from the game in 2022, before an incredible bounce-back season this year. "Last year, I was ready to call it. I was done. I was like, 'this isn't what I remember rugby league to me'," he said.
"In the pre-season ... I was OK with the fact that I might not be signing on for another year at the Warriors. It was a reality."
— David White (@journoyt) September 28, 2023
— Hold The Ball (@HoldTheBallYT) September 28, 2023
Ffs. Explains it
— Warriors NRL Fanatics (@FanaticsNrl) September 28, 2023
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