Manly's Orford takes out Dally M medal - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Manly's Orford takes out Dally M medal

By Steve Jancetic 09/09/2008 11:25:36 PM Comments (0)

Manly skipper Matt Orford held off fast-finishing Melbourne pair Billy Slater and Cameron Smith to secure his first Dally M Player of the Year medal.

In a thrilling finale to the medal count, three players remained in contention heading into the final round of the year.

But it was Orford, who led the race when voting went behind closed doors after round 16, who prevailed after steering the Sea Eagles to an easy victory over Penrith last weekend.

Storm fullback Slater paid a massive price for his one-game ban midway through the year, his flurry of punches to the head of St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale costing him any chance of victory.

Slater was stripped of three Dally M points as a result of the suspension, while the ban also denied him the opportunity to secure any additional points as he watched the Storm's round 20 loss to the New Zealand Warriors from the sidelines.

"Seriously I'm shocked, very surprised and very honoured to be here to accept this," Orford said.

"I'm lost for words.

"It's something I will remember and be honoured to be part of."

Orford was forced into a titanic battle over the closing stages after failing to register any points for five rounds between rounds 20 to 24.

"The boys were getting stuck into me when there was no points for five rounds and they said pull you finger out and do something," Orford said.

"But I hung in there and I got there in the end."

Orford's win comes as welcome recognition for a fine season after he was again overlooked for NSW jumper in this year's State of Origin series.

The diminutive playmaker was also forced to endure week after week of criticism over his perceived inability to perform in the crunch matches, this despite leading the Sea Eagles to second spot on the NRL ladder.

Along with Slater and Smith - who watched the awards ceremony from Melbourne as he continued treatment on a thigh injury - Canberra five-eighth Terry Campese and departing Newcastle captain Danny Buderus also mounted late season challenges.

Slater and Smith didn't walk away empty handed, the pair honoured with positional awards, joining Storm teammates Israel Folau (centre) and Greg Inglis (five-eighth) in the team of the year.

Other positional winners included Colin Best (winger), Orford (halfback), Alan Tongue (lock), Glenn Stewart (second row) and Penrith skipper Petero Civoniceva as prop of the year.

Inglis also took out the representative player of the year award after a pair of stunning displays in Queensland's 2-1 Origin series win over NSW.

The Storm sensation also played a leading role in Mark Gasnier's stunning try in this year's Centenary Test, Inglis flicking the ball over his head as he leapt over the dead ball line.

Canberra's Neil Henry beat out Cronulla's Ricky Stuart in the coach of the year category, Henry taking the Raiders from 14th in 2008 a sixth-placed finish this season.

Tongue was named captain of the year and as expected South Sydney halfback Chris Sandow was named rookie of the year, Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt the inaugural Toyota Cup player of the year.

The Provan-Summons Medal for the public's choice for player of the year went to Parramatta's Nathan Hindmarsh for the fourth consecutive season.

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