NRL's controversial Dally M overhaul set to divide fans

The NRL is set to introduce new changes to the Dally M system, but it could further divide fans.

Nicholas Hynes poses with the Dally M medal.
The Dally M judging system is set to change in 2023. (Getty Images)

News of yet another change to the Dally M voting process will not immediately return confidence to fans who have lost faith in the whole system. In what has been labelled the biggest change in the award's 43-year history, two judges instead of one will now watch each game before awarding points on a 3-2-1 basis.

A player could win as many as six points in one match if both judges deem him man-of-the-match. The biggest surprise is the two judges will remain anonymous for reasons that are yet to be fully explained.

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Perhaps it’s because the judges are on a hiding to nothing and not many want to put their necks on the line and be publicly associated with their picks. Betting agencies hold huge amounts of money on the Dally M and the pressure to get your choices right is immense.

Getting it wrong – at least in the fans' eyes – leaves you open to abuse. Judging the best three players a few minutes after full-time is not always as easy as it seems.

It wasn’t uncommon to be sitting in a press box in years gone by and have a Dally M judge – usually a former player of representative pedigree – come knocking on the door asking print journos for their best three players. Having spent the majority of the match with heads down over keyboards, most reporters took an educated guess at best and sent the judge on his way.

More often than not, the three players most of us threw up could be found as the recipients of the Dally M's 3-2-1 in the next day’s paper.

Should Dally M judges use replays to help vote

Back when journos were sometimes used as official judges, one scribe gave a point to a player from the losing side. Normally that would be no big deal, but on this particular day the player didn’t even get off the bench!

Dally M judge and former Wallaroos skipper Ruan Sims found herself in deep water a few years ago after being caught out awarding points from a game she wasn't at. She'd watched it on replay before casting her 3-2-1s. The rules require judges to be at games and to vote immediately after full-time.

Why? Would it not be better to give judges the option of watching a game from home without distractions – and again on replay if needed – before they have to file their votes?

Nicholas Hynes and NRLW Dally M medallist Raecene McGregor pose for a photo.
NRL Dally M medallist Nicholas Hynes (pictured left) and NRLW Dally M medallist Raecene McGregor (pictured right). (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

They'd have access to replays, stats and the opinion of fellow experts to lean on before having to hand out the points. There is so much going on at games that often it's impossible for a judge to have an immediate clear mind on who were the best three players.

Most years, but not always, we somehow end up with the best player taking out the award, but still fans remain unconvinced the process works as well as it should and could. The Dally M's positional awards, in particular, remain a major grey area. There's got to be a better way.

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