Medal or the car?

by Ashley Morrison on Oct 20, 2011

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The McInerney Ford Gold Medal in Western Australia is the most prestigious award in football. It is the award presented to the best player in the state league and with the accolade comes a medal, which is crafted by the same jeweler each year and has a value of several thousand dollars. In addition to this the sponsor, McInerney Ford, has for the past four years donated a Ford Fiesta to the winner.

Incredibly the past two years has seen the winner decided in the last round of voting and determined by one or two points. Former Glory players Marc Anthony and David Micevski driving home the victors; although Anthony actually did not have a drivers licence!

This year saw the voting again go down to the final round, except for the first time ever there was a tie. Balcatta’s English import Steve Burton ending up level with the Western Knights’ Johnny Mirco.

There was no way that the sponsor was going to give both a car, so it was deemed a count back would decide the honour. Steve Burton had picked up a maximum three votes in eight games, Mirco only on four occasions. Steve Burton was crowned the Player of the Year.

This however opened an unfortunate can of worms.

One school of thought believing that Mirco might not have had so many outstanding games, but he in fact had a more consistent season than Burton, and therefore he should have taken home the car and been crowned player of the year.

Then there was the strongly held belief that both players deserved medals and the count-back should only apply to the car.

Some even went so far as to say that players on a visa should not be allowed to win such an award, which is totally ludicrous. Imagine in the Hyundai A-League or the EPL if only home grown players could win the player of the year, the message that this would send to fans.

Others felt that no matter who won, the car should be sold and the money pooled between the mates, just as most of the cricketers used to do in the One Day series. I think everyone remembers the one player who decided to keep the car!

The last view does raise an interesting question, should one player be rewarded by such a fantastic prize above his teammates who would no doubt have played a major part in his success? This is after all no longer under 10’s football where one talented child can dribble through both sets of players and score.

It is great that McInerney Ford who have been involved with the player of the year award for over 15 years have felt that it warrants even footing with AFL, where they too donate a car, but on rare occasions such as this, it raises the question of the individual over the team, more so than with just a medal.

Football desperately needs sponsors like this who see the big picture, and are committed to the sport, of that there is no doubt, but has such a big prize changed the perspective of the award itself, being crowned the best player for that particular season?

Is football not a team game, where talented individuals dovetail with more workman-like players, and gel to create a unit the cohesively toils together to score and prevent the opposition scoring? Sometimes it may take that slice of genius or skill to win a game, sometimes courage – a diving header – or the reverse could be said. It may take wonderful skill to save a game, or immense courage – a keeper diving at the feet of a forward. Each and every player has a job to do and they all need each other to do that job to be successful.

The governing body, Football West was placed in an unenviable situation, and it appears that they have accepted that Johnny Mirco deserves the honour of a medal to reflect his achievement, and his outstanding season. They should be applauded for that, but the whole situation gives us food for thought.