Former rugby league players Norm Provan (left) and Arthur Summons re-create their iconic €˜Gladiators image that was taken 50 years ago, at the SCG in Sydney, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. The premiership trophy, formally known as the Telstra Premiership Trophy, has been renamed the Provan Summons Trophy in their honour.
Former rugby league players Norm Provan (left) and Arthur Summons re-create their iconic €˜Gladiators image that was taken 50 years ago, at the SCG in Sydney, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. The premiership trophy, formally known as the Telstra Premiership Trophy, has been renamed the Provan Summons Trophy in their honour. AAP Image - Paul Miller

Big Norm at Dally M is the real highlight for me

IF Johnathan Thurston is named Dally M Player of the Year tonight, for the fourth time, it will unquestionably add to the lustre of a player who is already rated among the very best to have played the game.

In the eyes of many, the crowning of Thurston will be the highlight of the Dally M event, the social pinnacle of the NRL season.

But without disrespecting the Cowboys skipper, it won't be for me.

I'm looking forward to seeing one of the most iconic figures in our game, big Norm Provan, back on stage with his little mate Arthur Summons, to present a medal named in their honour.

The Provan Summons Medal was first awarded in 1993 and is presented to the NRL player voted by fans as the best in the game.

And the two men whose graphic mud-caked image from the 1963 grand final sits atop the premiership trophy have for ages donned their penguin suits to present the prestigious award.

Apart from last year, that is. Big Norm couldn't make it in 2014 because illness had knocked him down, something few opposing forwards could manage during his magnificent career.

In June last year, Norm suffered a blackout while walking his dog near his Sunshine Coast home.

He fell and struck his head on a concrete path and was hospitalised for a number of weeks.

Now he is not as mobile as he would like, and his massive hands aren't as dexterous and responsive as those that held a football like a tennis ball back in the days when he was held in as high esteem as Thurston is today.

But while he may not be at his best, Norm will attend the Dally M awards tonight to present the gong to the most popular player in the game.

And regrettably, it will be his last.

Unless there is a remarkable recovery, big Norm - who turns 84 in December - has decided to finish his long association with NRL grand final week after tonight's awards dinner.

That also means he won't be at ANZ Stadium next Sunday to present the Provan Summons premiership trophy.

For those not familiar with his history, Norm Provan is one of the greatest players and coaches of all time, and an ornament to the game on and off the field.

He played in 10 of the record 11 successive premierships won by St George from 1956-66 and was captain-coach in four.

And to exemplify his marvellous record in finals, he won 20 from 25 for an 80% winning record.

By comparison, modern-day marvel Cameron Smith has 17 from 27 (63%) and Thurston 10 from 18 (56%). In any era, against any opposition and at any level, that is an inspiring stat.


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