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Long history of League controversies

By By Michael Burgess

Published: 8:51AM Tuesday November 25, 2008 Source: ONE Sport

The furore that has erupted over awarding the man-of-the-match award to Darren Lockyer in the World Cup final has resonated in Rugby League down the years as tvnz.co.nz's Michael Burgess explains

There is a history of controversial selections in big matches, with New Zealanders being involved on some notable occasions.

Think back to 1983 at Lang Park and the Graham Lowe-coached Kiwis toppling the almighty Australians 19-12 in a huge boil over.

It was possibly an even greater upset than Saturday night as the Kangaroos had completed an unbeaten tour of Great Britain the season before, which led to them being dubbed 'The Invincibles'.

The names still roll off the tongue - Mal Meninga, Eric Grothe, Steve Rogers, Brett Kenny, Wally Lewis, Steve Mortimer, Peter Sterling, Ray Price - league legends all of them.

But somehow the Kiwis, missing several stars including inspirational captain Mark Graham, beat the Australian team convincingly to record their first trans tasman victory since 1971.

Despite this, Kangaroo lock forward Ray Price was adjudged to be the best player on the park, which sparked an avalanche of phone calls from disenchanted Channel 9 viewers around Australia.

It led to a Kiwi halfback Shane Varley being awarded a special second man of the match award by the Australian Broadcaster.

The 1991 Grand Final threw up a similar drama.

The Canberra Raiders looked on course for their third consecutive premiership when they led the Penrith Panthers 12-6 at halftime.

Chocolate Soldiers

But the 'Chocolate Soldiers', as the West Sydney team were affectionately nicknamed, stormed back to claim a thrilling 19-12 victory over the 'Green Machine'.

Canberra loose forward Bradley Clyde was named player of the match and took the Clive Churchill medal for the second year in a row.

The announcement was very unpopular and seemed hard to fathom given the inspirational performances from Panthers such as Royce Simmons, Steve Carter and Greg Alexander.

Nine years later the Melbourne Storm claimed a classic come-from behind 20-16 win, after being faced with a 14-0 halftime deficit.

Melbourne's Brett Kimmorley was adjudged best on ground, continuing a trend of halfbacks dominating the Clive Churchill medal.

The Storm halfback had a solid game and had been one of the stars of the finals series, but the three judges were the only people among the 109,000 crowd who thought that Tawera Nikau wasn't the best player on the park on that September afternoon.

The Storm number 13, alongside with fellow Kiwi Steve Kearney was the catalyst behind the remarkable revival as they tore into the Dragons forwards in the second stanza.

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