Why Peter Sterling will reject NRL’s request to present Clive Churchill Medal

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Peter Sterling is set to reject the NRL’s forthcoming request to present this year’s Clive Churchill Medal at the grand final after committing to a golf weekend on the Central Coast on the same day.

The Herald on Monday night reported that Sterling was set to be asked to present the man-of-the-match award as part of a plan to overhaul the ceremony in response to the backlash over recent comments made by Rod Churchill, the son of Clive, about Latrell Mitchell.

Peter Sterling has committed to a golf weekend on the Central Coast on the same day as the grand final.Credit: Aaron Brown

Rod Churchill accepted the decision but asked the governing body to recognise the history of the award by asking former recipients to present it to the new winner.

The NRL was expected to contact Sterling this week, but the Parramatta legend has told this masthead he won’t be able to attend the grand final due to a prior commitment.

“As of Tuesday afternoon, nobody has been in touch and asked me,” Sterling said. “Nothing official has come through to me. When it was in the papers this morning, I didn’t know about it and my first reaction was that I have plans that weekend.

“I don’t want to appear disrespectful but I have stuff in place and that was the case for quite a while. I’m not going to make the grand final and I don’t see how that will change. It might be disrespectful when such an honour is expected to be asked of me but, unfortunately, I have plans.”

Peter Sterling, Rod Churchill and Latrell Mitchell.Credit: Getty

The NRL and Churchill family have agreed that Rod will not be on stage at this year’s decider to present the medal named after his father, as he was last year when Dylan Edwards won the award for his role in the Panthers’ triumph over Parramatta.

Rod Churchill requested that the first recipient of the award – Sterling, who starred in Parramatta’s 4-2 victory over arch-rivals Canterbury in 1986 – present the medal this year.

Previous Clive Churchill Medal winners (1986-2004)

  • 1986: Peter Sterling (Eels)
  • 1987: Cliff Lyons (Sea Eagles)
  • 1988: Paul Dunn (Bulldogs)
  • 1989: Bradley Clyde (Raiders)
  • 1990: Ricky Stuart (Raiders)
  • 1991: Bradley Clyde (Raiders)
  • 1992: Allan Langer (Broncos)
  • 1993: Brad Mackay (Dragons)
  • 1994: David Furner (Raiders)
  • 1995: Jim Dymock (Bulldogs)
  • 1996: Geoff Toovey (Sea Eagles)
  • 1997: Robbie O’Davis (Knights)
  • 1998: Gorden Tallis (Broncos)
  • 1999: Brett Kimmorley (Storm)
  • 2000: Darren Lockyer (Broncos)
  • 2001: Andrew Johns (Knights)
  • 2002: Craig Fitzgibbon (Roosters)
  • 2003: Luke Priddis (Panthers)
  • 2004: Willie Mason (Bulldogs)

Manly legend Cliff Lyons (1987 winner) would then be asked to present the award to the 2024 winner, followed by Canterbury’s Paul Dunn in 2025, Raiders great Bradley Clyde in 2026, and so on.

Sterling’s expected no-show is likely to force the NRL to look towards Lyons to present the award, potentially asking Sterling to present it in 2024.

“These commitments have been locked in for a while,” Sterling said. “It is only three weeks away. I’ll be playing some golf and celebrating with some friends. I’m not going to be in Sydney.”

The decision to sever formal ties with the Churchill family on grand final day has been rubber-stamped by the ARL Commission.

Previous Clive Churchill Medal winners (2005-2022)

  • 2005: Scott Prince (Tigers)
  • 2006: Shaun Berrigan (Broncos)
  • 2007: Greg Inglis (Storm)
  • 2008: Brent Kite (Sea Eagles)
  • 2009: Billy Slater (Storm)
  • 2010: Darius Boyd (Dragons)
  • 2011: Glenn Stewart (Sea Eagles)
  • 2012: Cooper Cronk (Storm)
  • 2013: Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
  • 2014: Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs)
  • 2015: Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)
  • 2016: Luke Lewis (Sharks)
  • 2017: Billy Slater (Storm)
  • 2018: Luke Keary (Roosters)
  • 2019: Jack Wighton (Raiders)
  • 2020: Ryan Papenhuyzen (Storm)
  • 2021: Nathan Cleary (Panthers)
  • 2022: Dylan Edwards (Panthers)

The decision comes after a scathing text message criticising Mitchell, sent by Rod Churchill to South Sydney chairman Nick Pappas, became public.

“Where was the human headline Mitchell tonight Nicholas?” Churchill texted Pappas following Souths’ 36-16 loss to Parramatta during Indigenous Round.

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