GF farce: Rooster told he had won Clive Churchill
The NRL's grand final has descended into another farce after Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was told he had won the Clive Churchill Medal only to watch Jack Wighton climb on stage to claim the prize.
The Daily Telegraph has confirmed Waerea-Hargreaves had been given word he would collect the medal. He lined up near the presentation stage as he waited to be introduced to the crowd. However, he was told moments later that it was in fact Wighton who was voted the winner by Australian selectors Laurie Daley, Mal Meninga and Darren Lockyer.
An NRL spokesman said the decision to hand Wighton the medal was correct according to the judges votes.
It is understood Waerea-Hargreaves was told prematurely by an unknown official he had won the award before Lockyer's votes had been tallied.
The Kiwi prop had been leading the count at that stage but once Lockyer was tracked down, Wighton edged ahead.
It would have been a historic moment had Waerea-Hargreaves won giving a New Zealander the award for the first time in history.
Sam Burgess in 2014 has been the only non-Australian to win the prize.
The medal mix-up followed the game-altering referee blunder where Ben Cummins ruled six again before changing his mind.
While there was mass confusion in the lead-up to announcing the award there is little doubt the Canberra five-eighth deserved the prize.
Wighton became the fourth player to win the medal from a losing team, joining Raiders lock Bradley Clyde (1991), St George forward Brad Mackay (1993) and Daly Cherry-Evans (2013).
Wighton, who scored a remarkable individual try, could not hide his disappointment post-game.
"It was a very numb feeling to achieve something so big, it was probably the worst moment of my life, losing a grand final," Wighton said.
"At the same time I am extremely proud of the boys, I love every single one of them and our actions next year will tell us whether we're going to back it up. I'm very proud of the boys, it's just a very weird feeling at the minute."
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart hitout at fans who booed Wighton when he walked onto stage.
"The best player on the field got the award," Stuart said. "Whether those people out there that booed agree or not, Jack didn't pick it. Three legends of our game picked the award.
"I think they know a little bit more than the wombats sitting in there behind the goals."
COMEDY OF ERRORS:
Grand final Buzz: Disgraceful call story of NRL season
All year we've feared a refereeing error would decide the premiership and on Sunday night it did.
Your columnist has been writing about it and sounding like a broken record since March.
The Canberra Raiders' dream of a fairytale grand final victory ended in blazing controversy in the dying minutes of what had been a wonderful grand final.
Jack Wighton took a tackle deep in Roosters territory when Ben Cummins waved his arm to rule six again - then changed his mind. This was a disgraceful call on the Raiders.
NRL GRAND FINAL SHAME: 'WORST CALL IN HISTORY'
A great drought was going to end either way at ANZ Stadium.
Instead it was Federal Highway robbery that overshadowed a blockbuster grand final and a Roosters historic 14-8 win.
Canberra fans were left heartbroken and rightly so.
With the scores level and the Raiders on the attack, lead referee Ben Cummins signalled six to go from a kick for the Raiders - only to change his mind and rule a handover when Canberra's livewire five-eighth Jack Wighton was tackled.
Wighton rightly protested but the Roosters were given the ball just metres from their line.
LOST AND FOUND: ROOSTERS SUPPORTER FINDS CRONK'S GF RING IN ESKY
He's already got five locked away but Cooper Cronk's sixth premiership ring went missing in the Sydney Roosters change-room after the NRL grand final.
As the retiring halfback great fielded final questions from the media, a Sydney Roosters insider approached with the glittering prize in hand.
A search party had been scouring the changeroom for the ring, which is worth $10,000 and has 160 diamonds, finally located in an esky.
"I found it for you," she said, handing over the ring to Cronk. "You're a godsend," he told her.
The veteran said he lost it during the team's immediate post-match celebrations.