XAVIER SULLIVAN: Got nothing although equal first-grade best.
XAVIER SULLIVAN: Got nothing although equal first-grade best.




SOUTH Grafton Rebels man mountain Xavier Sullivan was voted equal best Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) first grade player of the year.

But following a controversial decision by NRRRL management, Sullivan has been denied the prestigious accolade and recognition for his outstanding season.

The giant prop has been gutted by the NRRRL decision.

Sullivan and Cudgen half/five-eighth Craig Thurston finished with 19 points apiece at the end of the season after the referees' secret votes were tallied.

However, rather than declaring a joint player of the year, as used in other major awards like the Dally M (rugby league) and Brownlow Medal (Australian Rules) where no countback system applies, Sullivan was beaten in a countback and Thurston declared the winner at last Friday's awards presentation at Lismore Workers Club. Thurston collected a $5000 prize from sponsors, The Good Guys (Ballina). Sullivan, nothing.

During the season Thurston was voted best player on the ground four times against Sullivan's two, NRRRL president Robin Harley said.

Harley claimed the countback system to determine a solo winner in all three grades had always been used by the former Group One and now NRRRL.

Sullivan, who will take over as Rebels coach next season, said he was mystified by the ruling.

"It leaves a very sour taste in your mouth," he said.

"If we're (me and Thurston) are good enough to be voted equal why not declare us both player of the year.

"He (Thurston) gets all the prizes and accolades. I get nothing. Surely we should have shared the prize.

"I can't understand it. I've never heard of a countback. If it's an individual prize why shouldn't it be shared?

"We should be both recognised for our efforts. I've busted my guts out all year, got the vote and finish with bugger-all, not even my name on the record.

"It's not fair to me or other players in the same position.

"What's the point of having a 3-2-1 system. You score the points and finish with nothing, beaten on some countback system.

"I just can't understand their (NRRRL) workings."

Interestingly, there were two previous joint player of the year winners named when the award was sponsored by The Northern Star ? 2002 Scott Hogan (Mullumbimby) and Paul Latta (Marist Brothers) and Wayne Cullen (Ballina) and Dennis O'Farrell (Casino) in 1982.

NRRRL secretary Doug Harrison said the countback system was used in 2002 but officials were unable to split Hogan and Latta. He was unsure of the circumstances in 1982.

Harrison also pointed out the NRRRL had been made aware it could be open to legal ramifications if it split the award. The league had advertised the winner would receive a prize valued at $5000.

However, in 2002 Hogan and Latta agreed to split the $3000 prize.

Harley said discussions between himself and the award's sponsor about the outcome of a possible draw had taken place before the final preliminary round.

"The sponsor asked what do we do to split the winners if there is a draw," Harley said.

"We asked if they were willing to put up two $5000 prizes.

"It's been our policy on all the awards we use the system where the player with the most three points gets the award. It's a fair system.

"We don't think there should be two winners. It takes away from the prestige of the award."

Morally, Sullivan has a valid point and it could be argued with strong support, why should the NRRRL have the power to overrule the referees' decision?

All players in Sullivan's position deserve rightful recognition and encouragement.

If there's a dead-heat in the Melbourne Cup, the result stands.

Meanwhile, Lower Clarence Magpie Ryan Binge was named NRRRL Under-18 player of the year. Binge had an outstanding season with the Magpie Under18s which were knocked out in the first round of the finals series.

And the Rebels' Ray Mercy was named fiveeighth in the NRRRL team of the year.

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