Peter Sterling's awkward confession amid talk of Clive Churchill medal role

The Parramatta Eels legend has responded amid reports he's been asked to step in and present the medal.

Peter Sterling, Rodney Churchill and Latrell Mitchell.
Peter Sterling (L) is being touted as the man to present the Clive Churchill medal at the NRL grand final, following Rodney Churchill's (centre) swipe at Latrell Mitchell (R). Image: Getty/AAP

Peter Sterling has revealed he hasn't been contacted by the NRL about presenting the Clive Churchill medal, amid reports he's been asked to replace Rodney Churchill. The son of NRL Immortal and South Sydney legend Clive Churchill, Rodney recently made disparaging remarks about Latrell Mitchell that have been widely condemned.

Churchill described Mitchell as "lazy" and a "cancer on the club", as well as "an embarrassment to the No.1 jersey". The Immortal's son later apologised to the Rabbitohs fullback, but won't be presenting the medal named in his father's honour at this year's grand final.

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On Monday night, leading journalist Michael Chammas told Channel 9 that the NRL had agreed with Churchill that it wouldn't be appropriate for him to present the medal to the man of the match in the grand final. Churchill has instead requested that the previous Clive Churchill medallists present the honour moving forward - starting with 1986 winner Sterling.

"T he NRL has spoken to Rod Churchill and they have agreed he won't be on stage to present the award this year," Chammas said on '100% Footy'. "It is his request that for future years, the previous Clive Churchill medal winners will present the award, starting with the first winner in 1986, which will be Peter Sterling. I think the NRL are going to make contact with Peter Sterling in the coming days and ask him whether or not he's available to get on stage and present the Clive Churchill medal this year."

But Sterling revealed on Tuesday that no-one has contacted him yet, and he's not even sure if he's available that weekend. "No-one has spoken to me about it, no-one has asked me about it. I’ve spoken to no-one. At the moment I’ve got a gold weekend planned," he said on Triple M’s Rush Hour with Gus, Jude & Wendell.

When asked if he would present the medal if given the honour, he said: “I don’t know, because I’ve got stuff in place for quite a while. It’s less then ideal. I guess it’s a conversation I’ll have if/when someone gets in touch."

Rodney Churchill and Dylan Edwards after the 2022 NRL grand final.
Rodney Churchill presented the medal to Dylan Edwards after the 2022 grand final. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Under the new system, a different Clive Churchill medallist would present the award every year. Cliff Lyons, who won the medal in 1987, would be next cab off the rank to present it in 2024. Paul Dunn would follow Lyons, and then Bradley Clyde and Ricky Stuart. Dylan Edwards, who won the medal in 2022, would be eligible to present it in 2057.

Last month it emerged that Souths players wouldn't accept the Clive Churchill medal in the near future due to Rodney's comments. The Rabbitohs didn't even make the finals this year, and it remains unknown whether the new system would make them change their minds should they make a grand final in the next few years.

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Churchill also labelled Mitchell an "impostor" and said the fullback was "a complete myth who has the Aboriginal cause paramount and South Sydney second". He allegedly made the remarks in a text message sent to South Sydney chairman Nick Pappas after the Rabbitohs' loss to Parramatta in Indigenous Round in May.

Late last month, South coach Jason Demetriou said he didn't even know why Rodney Churchill was when first alerted about his comments. "(My reaction) first of all was, 'who?' I didn't know who he was," Demetriou said.

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"When it's alleged they were sent was in round 12, we were at 75 per cent (win rate) and joint top of the table. Latrell was a huge part of that and then he missed the next three months (with a calf injury). To throw those words at him are pretty disrespectful to him, his culture and most importantly our club."

Mitchell watched on from the sidelines as the Roosters completed the Rabbitohs' historic capitulation in the final round of the regular season. Demetriou's team became the first in the NRL era to miss the finals after leading the competition as late as round 12. Mitchell was unavailable for the game against the Roosters due to suspension.

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