‘Couldn’t have done much more’: Tigers baffled by Bula Dally M snub

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Wests Tigers officials were on Monday questioning how rookie fullback Jahream Bula failed to register a single Dally M vote in the epic victory over Penrith.

Two anonymous judges voting on a 3-2-1 basis awarded Luke Brooks six votes for his outstanding performance in the Tigers’ first win of the year over the premiers on Saturday night.

Props Stefano Utoikamanu and David Klemmer both received two votes, while Fonua Pole and skipper Api Koroisau received one vote.

In just his second NRL game, Bula set up a try, denied Nathan Cleary from scoring a certain four-pointer, and held his nerve under Cleary’s high balls in driving rain.

Cleary himself said afterwards of 21-year-old Bula: “He’s a good player … he’s definitely built for first grade.”

Dally M voting has always been subjective, but fans are always quick to complain if an excellent effort such as Bula’s in Bathurst is completely overlooked.

Jahream Bula gets an offload away against Nathan Cleary’s Panthers.Credit: NRL Photos

Injured Tiger Adam Doueihi was surprised by the voting snub and told this masthead on Monday: “To come up against a team like Penrith and save a try, set up another, he couldn’t have done much more.”

Matthew Elliott gave Bula two votes during his call on the ABC, while Jamie Soward gave Bula one vote on 2GB.

Soward, who gave Koroisau three votes and Isaiah Papali’i two, said of Bula: “He’s silky. The way he moves around the park, I was calling for him to get more ball the whole game. You could have given votes to a number of guys, but Bula was definitely one of them.

“There’s a young wave of players coming through, guys like ‘Sloany’ [Tyrell Sloan] and Bula, these guys move with ease. He seemed like he belonged there.”

Elliott said of Bula: “He went after the game. And when you a win a game by that margin, you need to look at key plays, and if he doesn’t show up when Cleary was going to cross the line – and adjacent to the sticks – that’s game over.

“For a young player to do that against one of the best players in the game, if I was coaching him, I’d be optimistic about his future, just by that demonstration of desperation and attitude there. I thought he was really impressive.”

The NRL introduced two judges rather than one to their voting system this year, but opted to keep the identity of judges a secret.

Brisbane’s Payne Haas missed the weekend’s action because of suspension but sits at the top of the Dally M leaderboard heading into Magic Round on 23 votes, two clear of Cleary, and with Harry Grant, Reece Walsh and Nicho Hynes, last year’s winner, all on 20 votes.

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