Another NRL great has been dragged into the Dally M voting controversy, with Luke Lewis forced to address concerns about his conflicting roles just one day after fellow Dally M judge Darren Lockyer.
The 37-year-old, who won premierships at both the Panthers and Sharks, declared he was “100% professional” with his voting, despite a perceived conflict of interest regarding his role as a specialist coach at Cronulla.
Lewis has confirmed that the NRL was well aware of his commitments at the Sharks before asking him to give 3-2-1 votes on games involving the club.
“Anyone who knows me, they know I’m not picking someone because they’re a mate,” Lewis told News Corp.
“I’d also like to think my credibility goes far enough that people know I wouldn’t just pick someone because they’re a Cronulla player.
“But if people want to question my integrity that’s up to them.
“I know I’m professional.
“And if I get asked again, I’ll put my hand up no matter which teams are involved.
“Because I’ll be 100 per cent professional and pick the best players.”
Lewis awarded points to Sharks fullback Will Kennedy (3), playmaker Matt Moylan (2) and Dragons centre Jack Bird (1) for their roles in Cronulla’s 32-18 win over St George Illawarra.
Lewis, who commentates NRL games for ABC Radio, also defended Broncos legend Darren Lockyer, who was forced to address the same conflict of interest questions on Monday after judging the Broncos Round 1 game against the Eels.
“How does anyone question a guy like Darren Lockyer?” Lewis said.
Lockyer, who is a Broncos board member, gave three votes to Parramatta prop Junior Paulo, two to Eels hooker Reed Mahoney and one to Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford on Friday night.
There is no suggestion either NRL great voted with any bias.
Lockyer told News Corp he’s been a Dally M judge for several years and has previously done Broncos games.
“When asked to vote on games I watch the game and give my votes based entirely on what I see,” Lockyer said.
“Who’s playing has no influence on my votes whatsoever.”
The Dally M voting system was criticised last year when Canberra playmaker Jack Wighton stunned the field to win the top gong despite many considering Penrith star Nathan Cleary to have had the best season.
The NRL has since launched a review into the voting process and a panel has been assembled to assess whether the system can be improved.
NRL boss Andrew Abdo defended Lockyer’s integrity but conceded there’s a perceived conflict of interest with him voting on Broncos games.
“I don’t for a second doubt Darren’s integrity and he’s been doing this for a number of years for us,” Abdo said.
“As evidenced by his votes on the weekend, he had two Eels players in there. His integrity has never been questioned.
“We are in a process of doing a review around the awards more broadly and it hasn’t been completed. There is some work being done on who can be represented on the panel.
“We need to look into it because perception is sometimes also really important.
“Whilst I don’t have any concerns about Darren’s objectivity or integrity, perhaps we need to make sure we are protecting everyone and there can never be doubt around perception.
“We will look at the eligibility requirements to protect everyone.”
There is no suggestion that either former player has been voting with any bias.
– With Eamonn Tiernan