Shaun Johnson (SJ), the Warriors superstar and quite possibly the most beloved person in Aotearoa this year, easily has a case to win the NRL’s most prestigious individual award this season - the Dally M medal.
If you don’t know, the Dally M medal is essentially awarded to the most valuable player of the NRL season. After each game, commentators vote on the three best players from the game, the best player gets three points, the second two, and the third one.
Players lose three points each week they are suspended. Players’ total points are made public after each game until round 12 (of a 26-round season), then are made secret until the winner is announced at the end-of-year awards ceremony.
The last time we saw the votes this season, SJ had 22 Dally M points, with nine players technically ahead of him: Payne Haas, Nathan Cleary, Harry Grant, Nicho Hynes, Reece Walsh, Latrell Mitchell, Ben Hunt, Cody Walker, and Dylan Edwards.
As many have pointed out, SJ is the only one of those players that hasn’t missed any games since round 12. In those nine games, he has been absolutely instrumental in leading the Warriors to win seven of them.
If we go purely off team performance, SJ’s Warriors sit at third, only below the Broncos and the Panthers. Four players on those two teams were ahead of SJ on the table - the Broncos’ Payne Haas (1st) and Reece Walsh (5th) and the Panthers’ Nathan Cleary (2nd) and Dylan Edwards (9th).
Since round 12, SJ has scored six tries, assisted on 12 tries, and scored 103 total points. That’s more tries than the above four players combined, the same amount of assists as the above four players combined, and almost double the amount of total points as those above four players combined.
Obviously, they have different roles - SJ is arguably the least threatening runner of the ball of the group of five and isn't the strongest defender. Payne Haas, for example, hasn’t scored a try all season but is one of the most lethal runners of the ball in the league (he has the most post-contact running metres despite missing a couple of games).
SJ has also played the most games out of five players, with the others having been injured, under State of Origin duty, or suspended (tsk, tsk, Reece Walsh. Tsk, tsk).
He’s even fresh off scoring two tries and assisting two more in the team’s ugly win over the Gold Coast Titans. Those tries, as well as his four conversions, mean he now has the third most points by an individual player this season (171).
SJ’s playmaking is one of the main reasons the Warriors are so good this season as he acts as the fulcrum and failsafe for the Warriors' attack. His 22 try assists are enough for second-equal in the competition. On top of that, when it comes to the fifth tackle, the team does everything they can to get the ball to SJ, who is quick to boot that thing.
This kicking prowess is evident in the stats, as he by far leads the league in total kicks (341) and kicking metres (10,563) and is fifth in total goals converted (69, nice). Old mate also cooly slotted a drop goal to beat the Canberra Raiders in golden point.
As Canterbury Bulldogs hooker Ree Mahoney said on ‘NRL 360’ recently, “he’s leading the Warriors through everything - his kick chase, kicking, try assists everywhere - he’s just been unbelievable.”
With just three games left, the Warriors have the easiest remaining schedule. I don’t want to jinx it: the season is not over yet and anything can happen, but the Dally M should be Shaun Johnson's to lose at this very moment.
Give the Dally M to Shauny, change its name to the 'Shaun J Medal', and give us the minor and the major. Up the Wahs.