I hate cigarettes. I don?t just dislike them ? I loathe them. You know how much you used to hate Manly? You now how much you personally hate Phil Gould and how much you despise his Roosters at this very minute? Well? that?s how much I loathe cigarettes. Yet amidst these cancerous, cantankerous life sucking cretins called ciggies, I do, somewhere down in the recesses of my heart, have a soft spot for the humble fag. And the reason can be summed up in two words - Rothmans and Winfield.

By the mid 1990?s the two words were so entwined within the fabric of Rugby League that it was easy to forget that these sponsors of the game were actually tobacco companies. That?s not to say their advertising wasn?t effective ? I?m sure the two were getting more than good value for money. However it got to the stage where I would have sworn the ?Rothmans? in Rothmans Medal stood for some legendary player in the 1920?s as opposed to a humble tobacco sponsor!

And there was also a period there where I thought those two gladiators on the Winfield Cup were not Provan and Summons but Winfield and err? Winfield! Well there was once a Peter Jackson running around in our game, but alas, he has been taken from us as well.

These awards were institutions; however with the federal government outlawing advertising for tobacco companies it spelt the end for the Rothmans Medal and the Winfield Cup. Such is the lot of tying yourself to any sponsor ? you are eventually going to have to change them ? but when they?ve been part of the family so long you forgot you weren?t actually related it makes parting difficult.

For the player of the year award the ARL had the right idea. They would simply de-sponsor the medal and name it after the two players who epitomized the ideals of fair play ? Winfield and Winfield, oops, I mean Provan and Summons! So 1997 rolled around and we had the Provan-Summons Medal. It was simply a continuation of the Rothmans Medal with the only change being that the judging was to encompass both referees and the media.

Unfortunately, 1997 was also the year of the split competition and while Fittler took out the ARL?s top gong, Daley walked away with the Super League equivalent. So when the two leagues got back together compromises and sacrifices were made. One such sacrifice was the Provan-Summons Medal. It wasn?t completely shafted, but reborn as a ?people?s-choice? award instead. The fact that Andrew Johns still went mighty close to winning the award last night despite being injured since Round 3 is a testament to what a farce this award has become and what an insult it is to those two gladiators.

Instead the premier prize in Rugby League became the Dally M Award. News Limited elevated their own highly regarded award into the showpiece of league?s night of nights. However in doing so it ostracized half of the newspaper community ? Fairfax papers mentioned the award in their broadsheets today, however it was done so grudgingly, and it showed in the reporting.

Look at the AFL?s Brownlow Medal. While the fact that Melbournians are prepared to stick glued to all 22 rounds of a count in prime time TV helps garner it saturation coverage, a lot also has a lot to do with the award?s neutrality.

Within this labyrinth of information lies the secret to reforming the game?s Best and Fairest Medal. The Dally M?s original scoring system had a lot of merit in it. Here the best three players were chosen and given scores out of 10 ? allowing for much more scope and accuracy than a simple 3-2-1. Personally I would recommend that we follow this example and lift the number of players being rated to 5. It should be compulsory that at least one of them should come from the losing team - too often good players in losing teams get overlooked. He can still get a score of zero if he?s that bad!

We need to involve both the referees and all facets of the media. Let the referees nominate the 5 players, and have judges representing all the major Rugby League Media give them their ratings out of 10. Make it a medal for all, judged by all and representing all.

I don?t know about you, but after all that restructuring I think I need a smoke!

750 words

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