Manly's Orford tip for Dally M Medal - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly's Orford tip for Dally M Medal

By Todd Balym and Melissa Woods 08/09/2008 04:15:31 PM Comments (0)

Manly skipper Matt Orford says it would be special to win the Dally M Medal, but a poll of NRL finals captains suggests he won't be feeling any love on Tuesday night.

The oft-maligned Sea Eagles halfback had a three vote lead after round 16 when the award for the NRL's best player went behind closed doors.

Orford polled 19 votes over the first 16 weeks with Parramatta star Feleti Mateo second on 16 and Melbourne's Billy Slater and Roosters captain Braith Anasta tied for third on 15.

But a barnstorming season by Slater and the consistent excellence of Newcastle fullback Kurt Gidley, who was on 10 votes and well behind Orford 10 rounds ago, is the tip among the captains of the NRL finalists to claim the award.

Slater attracted four votes among the captains to win the Dally M medal and Gidley two, while 2006 winner Cameron Smith and Orford were given the seal of approval by just one of their fellow skippers.

The skipper who backed Orford adding he couldn't split the Manly half, Smith or Slater.

A win for Orford however is the likely scenario as the Manly half has been a crucial and consistent performer in the Sea Eagles season.

It would also be a magnificent confidence boost for him ahead of the NRL finals after being overlooked for NSW and Australian honours throughout his career.

"I really haven't given it too much thought to tell you the truth," said Orford of the individual accolade to be announced at Tuesday night's function at Hordern Pavilion.

"It went behind closed doors a long time ago and there's been some great players in the back end of the season.

"Obviously it would be special and something you would really appreciate and honoured to be a part of, but I'm not getting too carried away or crossing my fingers too tightly."

Slater doesn't rate his chances of winning the medal too highly.

He will incur a three vote penalty for a one-week suspension he picked up this year and he is also aware that a fullback hasn't won the award since Michael Potter in 1991.

Slater had several big games over the final 10 weeks of the season, including a two-try effort in Sunday night's thumping of South Sydney that could attract votes even though he was sin-binned in the first half.

"If I'm in the top five I'll be pretty happy but there are more important things in rugby league than individual awards," said Slater.

"I'd much rather something as a team achievement than an individual thing."

North Queensland's Johnathan Thurston won the medal in 2007 but is unlikely to be among the frontrunners this year as the Cowboys struggled to second-last on the NRL table in a disappointing season.

Thurston famously had to be coaxed into coming to Sydney for last year's award by the NRL as he figured he wasn't in the running and wanted to stay in Townsville to prepare for the NRL finals.

The same could happen on Tuesday if Melbourne hooker Cameron Smith wins the award as the Storm skipper plans to stay at home after racing to Sydney for the captains' call today on just three hours sleep.

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