Nicho Hynes won the Dally M award in 2022. (Image: Cronulla Sharks/X)

The Dally M medal’s integrity and voting system have come into question two weeks into the 2024 season.  

After the NRL published the first two rounds of voting results, fans were disappointed and shocked with some of the votes counted.

In the first two rounds this season, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow received one point in the Dolphins’ loss to the Cowboys, and Nicho Hynes has managed to score 12 points (six points in both games).

There is a glaring problem…This system needs to be changed, as the voting process and game-by-game context, anonymous judges (which we were able to see until recent changes a couple of seasons ago) make it unbearable for fans to see in the first twelve rounds of the competition and see it played out by the end of the season.

Differences between the previous and newer process

Pre the 2023 season awards, each NRL match was allocated one judge, with the maximum of points a player received being three points.

The model for the Dally M award has always been flawed and has been under fire in recent years because of the actual votes being made, as well as judges not watching the games like Ruan Sims did a particular time in 2018.

The changes now include a 3-2-1 point scoring system and two anonymous judges for each match instead of one. The players are now able to score six points in total per match. 

The tweaks were made in the last twelve months with the belief they would add consistency and remove scrutiny towards the judges for the voting process. Although Greg Alexander revealed who he voted for in Round 2 this season.

Nicho Hynes before the changes to the system, scored 38 Dally M points to win the award in 2022, which was the highest-ever tally before the 2023 season.

Now, players could reach the same total in just seven games.

Most, if not all voters are former players either in or outside the media, and now with two judges for each game, if they have different scorecards, it will always pose the question: Were they watching the same game?

What has stayed the same is the votes are published each Monday morning from the beginning of the season to the end of round 12 before it becomes private, as the votes beyond round 12 are not shared until the awards night after the regular season.

It has become a significant indicator of whether discourse on players and games is consistent or if they pose more questions.

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How could the voting process and structure get better?

The NBA has a different framing of their best player for each season when it comes to discussing the season awards, focusing on not only being the best but also on how important players have been for their teammates and their organisation.

For context, here is the voting system the NBA uses

NBA MVP voting system

Points are assigned on a scale of 10-7-5-3-1 for each player.

First-place votes earn 10 points. Second-place votes receive 7 points. Third-place votes garner 5 points. Fourth-place votes accumulate 3 points. Fifth-place votes contribute 1 point.

The voters for a version of this system in the NRL could still be former players, as well as anybody in the current media or just any media member or former player around the game in some capacity while allowing them to be publicly recognised as voters before the changes that took place in recent years to remove the ability to see who voted for each game.

Why should the NRL take a page out of the NBA’s book?

What would make the NRL intrigued in a system like this is the constant discussion of who has been the best player on the best team, as well as the debate about whether someone from a 1st place team should win over a player who has led a team to the finals unexpectedly for example.

There would be more entertainment to have a year-round discussion rather than rely on varying game-to-game performances while leaning more towards a player’s consistency, production and impact.

From a voting standpoint, it would remove talking game by game and create more educated conversations about the sport and the players overall rather than criticise players for having a couple of bad games. It would make conversations about organisations and players more legitimate, especially about the best players in the league who could be up for the reward.

It would allow conversations about the Newcastle Knights and the New Zealand Warriors to have occurred more often last season because of the seasons they were having and possibly even create a discussion of Kalyn Ponga vs Shaun Johnson for the Dally M award, who led their teams to successful regular season outcomes and have a strong narrative and case for them winning the award.

It would also avoid more controversies from occurring, like the 2020 Dally M winner being Jack Wighton when Clint Gutherson had been more consistent and avoided judges for every single game, as in 2020, Jack Wighton had received points playing mediocre games while Gutherson received fewer points in games he had much more impact on.

This would also avoid the controversy about the first two rounds of votes this season, making the conversation more durable throughout the end of the regular season compared to the first twelve weeks of votes being publicised every week.

The award would arguably have more significance, as not every good performance means it leads to winning and success, as well as remove the players that are legitimately not as deserving and have their name in such conversation.

A new Dally M voting system like this would emphasise

  • Overall season performance than individual game-by-game performances
  • Considers players’ impact and winning, as well as players’ individual numbers 
  • The list of voters to be public 
  • Voters would wait until the end of the season to vote before the Dally M Awards ceremony

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