Backlash to sudden decision to replace Harry Sunderland Trophy at Super League Grand Final

FORMER St Helens and Warrington player Adam Fogerty has criticised the RFL’s recent decision to replace the trophy awarded to the player who is voted the man of the match in the Super League Grand Final.

Until last season, the winning player was awarded the Harry Sunderland Trophy, but earlier this month the governing body announced that, from this season, the player of the match will instead be presented with the Rob Burrow Award.

The Harry Sunderland Trophy was first awarded in 1965 following Sunderland’s death the previous year. The award was made at the behest of the then members of the Rugby League Writers’ Association. 

Halifax defeated Wigan in the 1965 Championship Final and Adam’s father Terry Fogerty, who played for Halifax, became the inaugural winner of the award.

His son, who himself played for Halifax, St Helens and Warrington after pursuing a successful heavyweight boxing career, winning 18 of 19 fights, believes that the way the decision was announced has effectively ignored the history of the award.

“The news that the Harry Sunderland Trophy has been renamed virtually overnight with very little apparent consultation has surprised me and, in my view, shows no respect to Mr Sunderland or his remaining family members, who I don’t believe have been contacted,” writes Adam Fogerty in a letter to this newspaper.

“The correct way to add Rob’s name to the trophy should have been to announce that this would be the last year the Harry Sunderland Trophy will be awarded, retiring it gracefully over that season and that the new Rob Burrow Award would replace it the following season. 

“There could then have been a handover ceremony with as many past winners of the Harry Sunderland Trophy present, passing over the new Rob Burrow trophy and retiring the Harry Sunderland Trophy on the pitch.

“In my view, by simply announcing what amounts to a name change and not giving it the recognition it deserves, this decision shows a lack of respect for our game’s history and the past players that have won this award.

“I have nothing but admiration for Rob and the tremendous way he and Kevin Sinfield are raising both money and profile to fight against the ravages of this terrible disease MND.

“This is not about Rob. This is about the decision to consign the Harry Sunderland Trophy to history and the way it has been announced with undue haste and, in my view, with a lack of respect for those great players who have actually built its reputation and tradition as probably the most important award for their individual performance in the sport’s biggest game.

“So please put this right and show the Harry Sunderland Trophy and the 52 great players who have won this award their proper respect before it’s too late.”

The full letter by Adam Fogerty can be read in the Mailbag of the latest issue of League Express.