Rugby league greats Clive Churchill, Norm Provan and Johnny Raper will be recognised with man of the match awards at this weekend’s NRL grand final, over 30 years after any of them played a game.
The trio are among 32 former players to get retrospective awards for grand final deeds past prior to Sunday’s decider between Melbourne and Manly at ANZ Stadium.
While mandatory grand finals were introduced to the game in 1954, it wasn’t until 1986 that the Clive Churchill Medal was presented to the best player in a competition decider.
So the centenary of rugby league historians committee got together and reviewed archived footage, newspaper clippings and record books to belatedly name the best players from grand finals between 1954-1985.
“It was no easy task but it was a great pleasure to revisit great matches featuring great players,” said Ian Heads, who was on the committee handed the task of deciding the 32 recipients.
“Rugby league over the years has been very comprehensively covered by the media and to dig through those 32 grand finals probably wasn’t as hard as you might think.
“We worked our way through reading every possible thing written about each of those 32 grand finals and then where necessary going to players and coaches to seek second opinions.
“It was an exhaustive process but at the end of it we had 32 names, some of them among the best players ever to play the game.”
Fittingly, the man today’s medal is named after, Churchill, was chosen as the 1954 man of the match.
Fellow South Sydney great Norm Provan gets three of them, 1957, 1958 and 1963, while Graham Eadie (1976, 1978) and Brett Kenny (1982, 1983) get two.