Wrap up from The Meninga Medal
by Brent Ford
image credit - Canberra Times
While Josh Hodgson and Josh Papalii scored the accolades in one of the most exciting Meninga Medal counts in recent history, it was Coach Ricky Stuart's passionate speech that captured the imagination of the room.
Stuart spoke of a text sent to him by Raiders champion Mal Meninga, that spoke of the sides glory days. Stuart spoke of the hard decision that when he came to Canberra he wanted a captain that would lead by example, he was unsure about the quiet Jarrod Croker. However it's a move that has proved a masterstroke.
The Canberra captain has been outstanding since taking the job, and finished sixth in last night's count.
But what really got the crowd going, was the emotional Stuart's claim that the Raiders would go all the way in 2016. The Raiders face a tough ask this week against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park, but if you believe Stuart, the Green Machine are going into the match confident.
The night was capped off by a tie in the overall medal count with Hodgson and Papalii tying, while 'Leipana' Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua finished tied just two votes back, after both made the stunning transformation into the league's most dangerous partnership.
Papalii spoke to the media after winning the award, and was again selfless.
"A massive achievement for myself, and to be voted by your fellow players means a lot," Papalii said.
"You don't go out there to win this award you just want to do your best for the team, and tonight was a good night."
Hodgson echoed Papalii's thoughts.
"To go to work with a great bunch of guys and to be the pick of the year is a great achievement for us both, and one we don't take lightly," Hodgson said.
"We've still got a massive week ahead of us and it's capped off a good night."
The Raiders will now turn their attention to Saturday night's blockbuster Preliminary Final with the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
2016 MENINGA MEDAL AWARD WINNERS
Meninga Medal: Josh Hodgson and Josh Papalii
Meninga Medal points: 19 Josh Hodgson and Josh Papalii, 17 Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua, 14 Jack Wighton, 13 Jarrod Croker.
Life Membership: John McIntyre
NRL Coaches Award: Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua
NRL Rookie of the Year: Clay Priest
Fred Daly Clubman of the Year: Sia Soliola
NYC Player of the Year: Jack Williams
NYC Coaches Award: Daniel Dole
Gordon McLucas Junior Representative Player of the Year: Nick Cotric
Geoff Caldwell Welfare and Education Award: Jack Hickson