The Dominion Post has decided to bypass coverage of club rugby this year, ending 137 years of continuous coverage.
Does this spell the end of the Billy Wallace Best & Fairest award?
The Billy Wallace Best & Fairest award bears the name of one of Wellington’s most famous All Blacks. It has acknowledged annual excellence in the Swindale Shield and Jubilee Cup (and Hardham Cup until recently) since 1966. Typically Dominion Post reporters have assigned points in a 3,2,1 system to players after each match. The likes of Graham Williams, Andy Leslie, Richie Blackmore and Ardie Savea are among the winners of the coveted prize.
It would be a great shame if Wellington became one of the few unions not to select a senior club MVP in 2018, but with no newspaper support of the competition who determines the winner?
Regular Club Rugby contributor Adam Julian has submitted the following:
Reporters? Too few exist.
Club managers? To biased. This was a problem with the old system where a manager would double as a reporter.
Representative selectors? Open to accusations of favouritism and selectors are often watching specific players rather than the whole match.
A selected committee? Who would select the members? How many would be involved? What would be the eligibility rules for a committee member? This would result in the great New Zealand solution for problem-solving and that is form a committee to solve a problem and solve it by forming another committee.
The only credible and neutral option for judging the award this season are the referees. Referees don’t have any agenda with clubs and enjoy sufficient knowledge of the game to make a sound judgement as to who are the best players on the field.
Referees judging Best & Fairest awards is hardly a novelty and is practiced in many sports mostly notably in Australian Rules Football where Brownlow Medal winners have been determined by umpires since 1924. In fact the Brownlow Medal voting works exactly the same way as the Dominion Post system.
Australian Rules football has three umpires. Perhaps the assistant referees would be involved in assisting the referee come to a final judgement
A reluctance by some referees to embrace another tough task on top of a very demanding job will be issues that need resolving, but dear I say it taking a leaf out of an Australian book maybe the best way to preserve the integrity and legacy of a great Wellington rugby tradition.
Editor’s note: In contrast to contributor Adam’s sentiments, using a ‘selected committee’ could be seen as preferable.
What about other judges such as a pool of Life Members or regular attendees from each of the clubs judging the 3,2,1 points when their own team is playing at home?
What about starting a Women's club rugby Best & Fairest competition, run along the same lines?
Whatever happens, it is regrettable that there will be no coverage as it would be fantastic to keep this competition alive in 2018.
Last year the competition was shared between Tawa’s Hemi Fermanis and Wainuiomata’s Ben Tupuola.