Roosters Victor Radley and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves were crowing at fulltime after their courageous grand final win over the Raiders. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Roosters Victor Radley and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves were crowing at fulltime after their courageous grand final win over the Raiders. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Colman: Shock choice for Churchill Medal winner

Jack Wighton was a worthy winner of the Clive Churchill Medal but if I was a judge I would have "done a Cummins", changed my mind and given it to Ricky Stuart.

How Ricky didn't blow his top at the post-match media conference over Ben Cummins' "six again - no wait - last tackle" ruling was the most outstanding individual performance of the day.

 

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Ricky Stuart was a class act after the loss. Picture: Ryan Pierse
Ricky Stuart was a class act after the loss. Picture: Ryan Pierse

I liked the tweet by journalist Holly Byrnes at full-time in which she tried to kickstart a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the inevitable $10,000 fine that Ricky was surely going to cop after doing his nana.

Except that he didn't. In yet another first on an historic night for rugby league he was controlled, measured and remarkably sane.

 

 

"There's not a referee who would go out there to try to make a mistake - if it was a mistake," he said.

That's not what he said when he called referee Ashley Klein "an (expletive deleted) cheat" after his Australian team lost a Test to the Kiwis in 2008, but maturity can do that to you.

Sometimes you just have to accept that refereeing is not an exact science. Mistakes happen, some more telling than others.

 

 

Jack Wighton prepares to play the ball as referee Ben Cummins tells him it is a changeover in the most controversial moment of the grand final. Picture: Kayo screenshot
Jack Wighton prepares to play the ball as referee Ben Cummins tells him it is a changeover in the most controversial moment of the grand final. Picture: Kayo screenshot

If it hadn't been the six-again brouhaha it would have been Cronk's sin-binning or the Roosters' trainer's head, and come on, was anyone really surprised?

Two weeks ago one of the poll questions in this column was, "Will the NRL grand final be marred by a refereeing controversy?" and 67 per cent of people who responded voted "yes".

Which of course is exactly what happened, and despite the best efforts of Graham Annesley, Trent Robinson and anyone else who tries to downplay the impact Cummins' decision had on the outcome, it will never be forgotten.

 

 

As another online blogger put it, the result of the game should go into the record books with an asterisk (although he spelt it "asterics").

Sure Raiders supporters (and on the day that meant the vast majority of the rugby league world) were bitterly disappointed, but look on the bright side.

At least Cummins changing his ruling took their minds off the fact that Joey Leilua is yet to master the art of the catch and pass, and gave them something to be angry about.

 

Joey Leilua’s forward flick-pass to Jordan Rapana when Cooper Cronk was in the sin-bin was an opportunity gone begging for the Raiders. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Joey Leilua’s forward flick-pass to Jordan Rapana when Cooper Cronk was in the sin-bin was an opportunity gone begging for the Raiders. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

It also put the Roosters-Raiders decider into rarefied company as a grand final that will always be recalled as, "the one when …"

Like 1970, the one when Johnny Sattler played with a broken jaw; 1989, the one when Warren Ryan took off Steve Roach and Paul Sironen with 20 minutes to go; 1999, the one when Anthony Mundine went himself and bombed a certain try; 2003, the one when Scott Sattler pulled off one of the greatest cover-defending tackles of all time, and 2015, the one when Ben Hunt dropped the kick-off in golden point.

 

Like Ben Cummins’ six-tackle bungle Anthony Mundine’s bombed try in the 1999 grand final will live in rugby league infamy. Picture: Trent Parke
Like Ben Cummins’ six-tackle bungle Anthony Mundine’s bombed try in the 1999 grand final will live in rugby league infamy. Picture: Trent Parke

Now we'll have 2019, the one when the referee called six tackles and then changed his mind - or maybe it will be remembered as the one when Ricky Stuart held his temper at the post-match press conference.

Either way, there's no debating one thing: it was a great game, a fitting grand final and one well worth remembering.

Even if it does have an asterics.