NRL fans have been left fuming claiming the Dally M judging system is 'flawed' after Kalyn Ponga stormed home to take the top individual award by one point over Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson. New Zealand fans stayed up late on Wednesday, which crossed into Thursday night for those across the ditch, to support Johnson with the halfback widely tipped to win his first Dally M medal after a remarkable season.
But as always, the awards night throws up some surprises and Ponga's sensational form in the second-half of the season saw him capture six points in most of the games in the Newcastle Knights' nine-game unbeaten streak. The fullback could be seen sharing a moment with Johnson with one round left to vote, before he claimed his maiden Dally M award with 56 points.
However, NRL fans and especially Warriors diehards have hit out at the voting system that saw a number of odd names in the top few players in contention for the title. One such moment that angered fans saw Johnson receive zero points for his round 25 match against Manly.
Johnson put on a strong performance with a try-assist, two linebreak assists and the field goal to secure the two points for his team. However, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak scored a hat-trick for the Warriors, while Jason Saab scored three tries for Manly.
Johnson missed out on points in the game, which had many fans raging. This game, along with his injury in round 27, all but ended his chances of the award. This is also the first year that two judges handed out three, two and one points each in a game. A player can receive a maximum of six points for a performance.
Many felt this only skewed the polls even further and helped superstars shine in teams that don't perform as well. The two big surprises were Scott Drinkwater finishing with 50 points and Nicho Hynes finishing fourth on 48 points.
The argument for many Warriors fans was Johnson was restricted because players such as Watene-Zelezniak, Charnze Nikoll-Klokstad, Addin Fonua-Blake and others make it harder for him to take the maximum number of points away from each game.
Others pointed out that the Panthers, who finished minor premiers, only finished with two players in the Dally M team of the year despite their dominance. Few could argue Ponga was the best player for the second-half of the NRL season, but regardless NRL fans have called for a 'revamp' of the Dally M voting system ahead of next year.
Shaun Johnson will no doubt feel gutted missing out on the Dally M by one point. Ponga had the advantage of being a standout superstar each week on the Knights run home, Shaun had a lot of competition from his own teammates. Still an incredible year for the #7
— Sam Hewat (@samhewat) September 27, 2023
No. No. No. Shaun Johnson is the Dally M Medalist. The system needs to change. Period. Disagree if you want, but it's a Seasonal award and SJ was the best all year. Ponga was sensational the last 2 months, but spare me. #DallyM
— Nathan Keven (TSH) (@thesidelineheat) September 27, 2023
The Dally M system is broken. It was broken last year and the year before that & doubling the points created the same outcome. I love Kalyn Ponga and he was excellent in the final few weeks, but he wasn't the best player over the whole year. Just switch to MVP voting, it works
— Matt Bungard (@TheMattBungard) September 27, 2023
— Sachin Kelsen (@kelsen_sachin) September 27, 2023
If this year doesn’t prove that the NRL should move to an NFL MVP voting system to determine the best player across the year, nothing will. Shaun Johnson was clearly the best player in the NRL this year and it wasn’t even close. #DallyM #NRL
— Scott (@BWBShark2016) September 27, 2023
The best team for the last 3 years gets one player into the Dally M Team of the year. Seriously!!! What an insult. Fullback and halfback , again seriously!!
— Bridget Lingane (@BridgetLingane) September 27, 2023
Nicho finished 2 points off the Dally M 🧐
— SCSpy (@SCSpy1) September 27, 2023
Nothing against KP, he had a great back end of season. Just can’t get over the fact that SJ didn’t poll a single point in a game where he had 3 try assists and a field goal, the system is a joke
— Chris Gavin (@chrisgavinn) September 27, 2023
Dally M: SJ getting 0 votes in the game he kicked the winner
Brownlow: Daicos getting 0 votes in a game where he had 41 disposals
This is incompetence, pure incompetence
— Hayley (@Hayleyyemma) September 27, 2023
Interesting Nicho Hynes finished third... he wasn't even one of five nominations for best player at his own club!
Again, the judging process is flawed.
— The Mole (@9_Moley) September 27, 2023
Kalyn Ponga's classy speech after Dally M win
Some fans might have been upset that Johnson didn't win, but there was not taking away from the fact Ponga produced one of the best run of forms ever seen in the game. And having come back from his concussion drama that rocked the beginning of his season, the fullback was all class in his speech.
"It's a crazy feeling, I feel humbled and very lucky," Ponga said. "I have a lot of people to thank - my family, the staff and my teammates.
"The way I played this year is impossible without your support and love and belief in me. I had an early-season holiday and when I was over there I decided I wanted to stop letting people down, and yeah, what a year."
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