The Losing Winners: Clive Churchill Medal Edition


One of the most prestigious individual honours an NRL player can receive is the Clive Churchill Medal, which is given to the man of the match in the Grand Final.

It comes on the biggest club stage in the sport and recognises a player that has had the game of their life helping their team to a Premiership… usually.

Every so often someone on the losing side will win the medal and as you might expect, there are some strong feelings about whether or not that is “right.”

Imagine being in the position of the player, having to accept the award after falling just short of your season’s ultimate goal.

It’s almost like hearing “you’re good, but not good enough, so here’s a consolation prize.”

The Clive Churchill Medal has been awarded for every Grand Final dating back to 1954 and a grand total of four players have won it from the losing side.

With plenty of talent set to take the field for both the Storm and Roosters this Sunday, there is every chance there could be a fifth, so we at the Ladbrokes Blog wanted to look back at these players and their efforts in a losing performance.

2013 – Daly Cherry-Evans – Manly Lost to Roosters

Starting with the most recent occurrence of a player on a losing side winning the Clive Churchill Medal, the selection of Daly Cherry-Evans as the winner in 2013 was highly controversial.

A member of the selection panel said that he won because he was the best player on the field that day despite being on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

With five minutes to go, the votes were cast and (despite Manly being behind 26-18) the Manly halfback took out the award.

The Manly halfback was instrumental in helping his side build an 18-8 lead, which was surrendered in the final 25 minutes, perhaps harming his case.

Many felt as though there were several Roosters deserving of the award including Jake Friend or James Maloney, however it was DCE taking out the Medal instead.

1993 – Brad McKay – Dragons Lost to Broncos

For the second straight season it was Brisbane and St George in the Grand Final, however the sequel was much closer than the original with Brisbane winning by just eight points.

Dragons lock Brad McKay was selected as the Churchill Medallist and that decision was seen as an odd choice by many.

In fact, there were objections raised right through to the highest office in the (Queens)land, with then premier Wayne Goss questioning the selection panel of NSWRL General Manager John Quayle, Don Furner along with two St George legends in John Raper and Reg Gasnier.

Who could have won it from the Broncos?

Kevin Walters would have a pretty good case, having set up the two Broncos tries in the first half to help them build a 10-0 lead, while our own Allan Langer still thinks that he was robbed!

1991 – Bradley Clyde – Raiders Lost to Panthers

When Bradley Clyde claimed the Clive Churchill Medal in 1989, there was not a lot of outrage – Clyde helped the Canberra Raiders to their first NSWRL Grand Final triumph as a part of their star-studded team.

Two years later however, there were plenty of questions raised about Clyde’s selection as his Raiders team fell to the Penrith Panthers.

The unofficial man of the match award on the day was handed out to Penrith’s Royce Simmons however the New South Wales Governor awarded the medal to the young Canberra Lock.

Clyde was the first player to be awarded multiple Churchill Medals, however five players have since picked up that honour with retrospective Medals now dating back to 1954.

1967 – Les Johns – Canterbury Lost to Souths (Retrospectively Awarded)

One of the retrospective Clive Churchill Medal winners was Les Johns from Canterbury Bankstown in 1967.

Announced as a part of a long list of past winners, Johns was the only player to take the honour out from a losing team.

Johns played at fullback for the defeated Bulldogs as they went down to a Souths team, coached by Clive Churchill, about to kick off an era of dominance.

As for someone from the winning side to have won it instead, perhaps Bob McCarthy, whose intercept try is still referenced today, or Eric Simms who kicked the winning penalty goal for the Rabbitohs with five minutes remaining.