Well done Tommy Makinson on deservedly being chosen as the best international rugby league performer in 2018.
He made a brilliant try scoring debut in Denver, off the bench, in his less preferred position of centre. Arguably the outstanding moment of that match was his pick up and offload to set up Elliott Whitehead's second try, knowing he would wear a big hit from it. It showed all his attributes that us Super League fans know so well - instinct, speed, tenacity, bravery, strength, skill. He backed that up with a strong showing in Hull. A great kick take in the build up to the opening try and an emergency stint at full back notable features. Then he really blew the lid off things at Anfield. Possibly his best ever defensive display and a match winning super try to round off a great hat-trick.
That brief list of highlights show that his place as the best international performer is well deserved. Whitehead must have run him close. And it can't have hurt Tommy's chances that the timing of the award was after his man-of-the-match game rather than after a different game. Maybe a week earlier and Whitehead would of won it, maybe a week later and (I'm projecting here, writing this before the third test) John Bateman or Jake Connor could have won it.
This takes absolutely nothing away from Tommy Makinson or the panel who voted on the award. Those that voted for him, did so on the criteria they were asked to, and I'd say came up with the right choice for that criteria. He deserves the title of best international rugby league performer in 2018, as of 7 November 2018.
It does, however, take something away from the award he has won.
Before I address the biggest elephant in the room, I'll return briefly to that smaller, albeit still messy and noisy, elephant. The RLIF need to be pulled up on the timing of this award. If we're only giving it out on international performances, why has it been given out with one game left to play in the biggest international series of the year? What if the series was undecided after a Dallin Watene-Zelezniak last minute response to Makinson's hat-trick? Who would then have won?
In non-World Cup years we only have a handful of games at most for players to show themselves at international level. Yet we're giving the award out with 20% of that international season left. This is utterly ridiculous. The RLIF need to fix this nonsense for future years. As often with rugby league administrators, I seriously fear they won't.
Then the biggest issue. The same award, the Golden Boot, has been handed out for a totally different criteria to the past. I say it makes a mockery of the award. (It's actually this opinion that led to this blog post. It was asserted, falsely, that had a Wigan player got the award I would have celebrated it fully and not challenged it at all. You all should know me better than that by now!)
The Wikipedia Rugby League Golden Boot Award page currently says: The Golden Boot is given, usually in December after the conclusion of all the year's matches, to the player adjudged to be the best in the world, as determined by a ballot of international media representatives.
Well that needs changing now. Because that isn't what Tommy Makinson won the award for.
If Makinson had, instead, won the 'Rugby League Internationals Player of the Year' he would have received the same level of deserved credit and praise as he has, without the same level of outcry and bemusement we've seen.
How can anyone think it's sensible to take what had become regarded as the award given to the best player in the world, and give it to the player making the biggest impression over a handful of international games?
We're now left with either forever questioning how Tommy Makinson won the Golden Boot in 2018 when he wasn't the world's best player that year, or how one of our game's greatest ever players Jonathan Thurston won the Golden Boot in 2015, when he only played one international match, which he lost. Make sense of that.
Why oh why do our sport's governing bodies keep giving us reasons to in-fight, argue and so easily criticise, when instead we could be having a celebration? You might say that I could ignore these issues and just celebrate. But don't we want to do things right? Or would you rather let those in charge do whatever they want and we just deal with it?
I know there are bigger issues facing our great sport. But huge PR gaffes like this just go to demonstrate that those people currently running our game aren't up to the challenge of facing down and conquering those bigger issues.
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