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True Blue predicts epic battle for Dally M Medal

Will one additional NRL game ultimately prove to be the difference between Tom Trbojevic and Nathan Cleary when it comes to determining the Dally M Medal for this season?

It’s a question True Blue Greg Alexander admitted had him stumped him in the lead-up to the Dally M winner being announced on Monday night.

The NRL this week revealed the count had stopped after Round 19, with Cleary on 24 points holding a one-point lead over Trbojevic (23), with Cody Walker (17) and Daly Cherry-Evans (17) in equal third spot, followed by Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues and Sydney Roosters captain James Tedesco (15).

Both Trbojevic (hamstring) and Cleary (shoulder) missed games earlier during the season through injury and through representative honours with NSW for the State of Origin series.

That leaves the final six club matches of the regular season – rounds 20 to 25 – to see if Trboejvic did enough to surpass Cleary or whether the Penrith No.7 was able to cling onto top spot.

“I don’t know… because Nathan misses a couple of games early in the next count,” Alexander said.

“He didn’t play round 20 or 21… Then Tommy missed a game (round 23) in the final run home.

“So, Nathan played four of six games and Tommy played five. And there’s still Cody Walker in the mix as well.”

Walker played five of the last six, missing the round 25 game against St George Illawarra with Benji Marshall stepping into the No.6 role, but he was key to the Rabbitohs scoring 35 points, or more, in four of the five games he played in to end the club competition.

“It will be interesting to see what happens next Monday night in the final countdown,” Alexander said.

Regardless of the outcome, Trbojevic still checks out of the 2021 season as one of the best players to grace the NRL stage.

His two tries in the 42-6 win over the Roosters in last week’s semi-finals took him to 27 – equalling Phil Blake’s Manly club record set in 1983.

Alexander played with Blake in the NSW City Origin team (1988) and NSW Origin side (1989), as well as at the Warriors in 1995-96.

“In 1983… for Blake to cross the line 27 times, in an era which was defence-orientated, is quite a feat,” Alexander said.

“Tommy has had a season like no other individual. The fact he missed the first five games of the season and then missed a couple of games throughout because of Origin duties, the numbers he’s produced this year are incredible.

“Tom’s had a year no other individual has had.”

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