Slater caught in ‘dead set farce’
RUGBY league commentators have erupted over the controversial decision to award Billy Slater the Wally Lewis Medal for the best player of the 2018 State of Origin series.
It was a bungle of such immense proportions that Blues coach Brad Fittler refused to answer follow-up questions when asked if Slater deserved the gong.
The true shame of the bizarre decision is that it has smeared a rugby league champion in his moment of farewell and taken the public focus off of his Game 3 heroics and onto his failure to stop NSW from taking an unbeatable 2-0 series lead.
He only played two games. His only man of the match award came in the series' dead-rubber at Suncorp Stadium. It also can't be ignored that Slater's influence wasn't enough for the Maroons' to bounce back when the series was on the line in Game 2 at ANZ Stadium.
Do you think Billy Slater deserved the Wally Lewis Medal?
Still, despite the mountain of evidence, Kangaroos selectors handed Slater State of Origin's most prestigious individual accolade while the series-winning Blues players could only watch on in disbelief.
Even Slater appeared shocked when he was told to stay on the podium during the post-game ceremony to receive the Wally Lewis Medal.
The Maroons champion can't be blamed. He was almost certainly Queensland's best player in the final two games of the series. He was humble in receiving the award. His only crime was being the most popular selection for fans who wanted to give him a fairytale farewell, riding the emotion of his Origin retirement.
He finished Wednesday night with 136 metres, three linebreak assists and a try assist.
He also became just the second player after Arthur Beetson to captain an Origin side after his 35th birthday, having been appointed to the role following an injury to Greg Inglis.
"This is really special. Wally was a hero while I was growing up. To win this award for the second time will go down as one of my biggest achievements," Slater said after the match.
He was a bit more real in his post-game press conference.
"I only played two games this year so it's a little bit surprising," he said.
"To have another Wally Lewis Medal in my cabinet in my last game to lead the boys out in as captain is going to very special."
Australian selectors and Wally Lewis Medal voting panellists Darren Lockyer and Laurie Daley can be blamed. They have to be.
The two rugby league legends - who award the gong with advice from Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga - simply had to know better. They Simply had to have more experience to ignore the emotion surrounding Slater and to give the award to any number of the large group of players in blue shirts more deserving than the Queensland fullback.
It is just yet another case of amateur hour in rugby league overshadowing an epic occasion.
Boyd Cordner was man of the match in Game 2. James Maloney was unstoppable in the first two games. James Tedesco was man of the match in Origin I.
No. 9 Damien Cook was consistently excellent for NSW throughout all three games and the Blues' ability to cut holes in the Maroons' middle third was ultimately the main reason NSW was able to win back the shield.
There is a very reasonable argument to make that Slater wasn't even the best fullback of the series if you compare his two games to Tedesco's three performances in the Blues' winning series.
All of these undeniable facts were racing through the heads of Origin commentators when Slater was announced as the medal recipient.
Slater one of the greats but man of the series..... missed one game and we lost. Give us a spell 😂 #Origin— Sam Phillips (@samphillips06) July 11, 2018
Nothing but love for Billy Slater and it's not his fault but awarding him the Wally Lewis Medal has made a mockery of the award. #origin— jared coote (@Jared_coote) July 11, 2018
That is a deadset farce— James Silver (@JamesSilver3) July 11, 2018
Former Blues series-winning captain Paul Gallen joked the voting for the Wally Lewis Medal must have been conducted by two Queensland selectors.
Not too many others were able to laugh at the staggering farce.
"He was the difference for them in Game 2," Gallen told Channel 9 of Slater and his return after missing the series opener.
"I cant help but feel sorry for a NSW player not to win the Wally Lewis Medal. They (NSW) won the series. Someone like Boyd Cordner thoroughly deserved it.
"He was the best forward on the field in game one.
"Cordner was man of the match in game two and I thought he played well tonight - 80 minutes in those two games. I'm a little bit disappointed for a Blues player not to win it".
So were a lot of commentators.
One of them was Blues coach Brad Fittler who refused to share what he really thought of Slater winning the award in his post-game press conference.
"I can live with the fact he takes the medal away," Fittler said.
"I don't know if it was for the two games he played this series. There were a few players in our team I would've chosen.
"The fact is he has been a brilliant player. I can live with him walking away with it."
When pressed, Fittler politely elected not to answer questions about Slater's worthiness for the award, presumably in an attempt not to taker the shine off Slater's final Origin moment.
Meninga, Daley and Lockyer had already managed to do exactly that.