Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton has claimed the 2020 Dally M Medal in a dramatic count during a final-round NRL shootout with Clint Gutherson and Nathan Cleary.
The NSW star is the first Raiders player since Laurie Daley in 1995 to clinch the medal for best player of the season, and just the third from the club in the award’s 42-year history.
However, the result was marred for the public with the winner mistakenly published by a media outlet hours before Wighton was crowned on Monday night.
Players’ phones were confiscated during the virtual ceremony so it was not spoiled for the contenders and Wighton said he was genuinely shocked to receive the award.
The 27-year-old finished on 26 points ahead of Parramatta fullback Gutherson (25) and Penrith favourite Cleary on 24.
“I’m absolutely shocked, the players I was sitting there with and it could have been anyone, so to receive this medal tonight in front of so many good players, I’m blown away,” he said.
“I wrote myself off completely, I really can’t believe it, it just feels amazing.
“As a kid I would never have thought I would be talking about something like this. I’m so thankful.
“This is right up there, this is definitely up the top and it’s something I’ll never forget. I can’t really get my head around it yet.”
It was a dramatic finish with none of the top three polling votes in the final round of the season.
Wighton was rested for Canberra’s 38-28 win over Cronulla, while Gutherson and Cleary did not poll votes despite playing crucial roles in their team’s round 20 wins.
Gutherson set up two tries in the Eels’ 28-24 win over the Wests Tigers, while Cleary’s halves partner Jarome Luai earned three points in Penrith’s 42-0 win over Canterbury.
Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith also came close to winning the gong, finishing fourth on 22 points despite missing five games during the season.
He was named at hooker in the team of the year with Storm teammate Josh Addo-Carr was selected on one of the wings.
Grand finalists Penrith took home a slew of awards after their remarkable run to the season decider against the Storm.
Mastermind of 17-straight wins, Ivan Cleary was named coach of the year, while halfback Nathan Cleary, prop James Fisher-Harris, second-rower Viliame Kikau, lock Isaah Yeo and centre Stephen Crichton were all picked in the team of the year.
Warriors star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was named captain of the year, while his team was also given the Provan Summons Medal for spirit of the year.
Brisbane star Ali Brigginshaw earned her first Dally M as female player of the year heading into Sunday’s grand final against the Sydney Roosters, while Wests Tigers hooker Harry Grant was named rookie of the year.
DALLY M AWARDS
- NRL winner: Jack Wighton (Canberra)
- NRLW winner: Ali Brigginshaw (Brisbane)
- Coach of the year: Ivan Cleary (Penrith)
- Rookie of the year: Harry Grant (Wests Tigers)
- Captain of the year: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors)
- Team of the year: Clint Gutherson, David Nofoaluma, Josh Addo-Carr, Stephen Crichton, Kotoni Staggs, Jack Wighton, Nathan Cleary, Cameron Smith, Josh Papalii, James Fisher-Harris, Viliame Kikau, Tohu Harris, Isaah Yeo.