Former Rugby League player Richie Fa’aoso has paid tribute to the culture of the NRL and its contribution to the behaviour which earned him a nomination for The Fownlow Medal Hall of Fame.
Fa’oso was recently nominated for Australia’s most prestigious inter-code award for his drug and alcohol addiction and a prison sentence for domestic violence.
The Frownlow Medal is awarded to the player whose off-field demeanour epitomises the values of the modern day footballer and draws attention to the status of footballers as role models to young Australians. It covers Australia’s four major football codes; the National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Football League (AFL), the A-League (Football) and Rugby Union’s Super Rugby competition. Kiwi international and Sydney Roosters player Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015, while Corey Norman from the Parramatta Eels won in 2016.
The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame honours former players and players who received media attention in previous seasons, for similarly scandalous behaviour, and its inductees include Ben Cousins and Julian O’Neill.
“Mate, I wouldn’t be where I am now without the boys I played with over the years. I owe so much to them and to the game itself,” Fa’oso stated, as he accepted the nomination from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic.
“I have to thank them and the game for my addiction to alcohol and drugs, including ice, which made me think about killing other people and myself,” explained the hard hitting forward, who played for the Panthers, Roosters, Eels, Knights, Storm and Sea Eagles as well as Castleford in The UK.
“I started taking drugs when I started playing NRL.”
The former Tongan international did not, however, credit the NRL with his recent one month jail sentence, which he served for domestic violence offences and which greatly increased his chances of being inducted into The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.
Imprisonment for domestic violence also earned a nomination for fellow Rugby League player Zane Tetevano, who blamed the toxic environment of the NRL for his behaviour and vowed to never return to the game. Tetevano, however, has since resumed his NRL career and is integral to the success of the Sydney Roosters, who currently sit in second place.
Fa’oso will find out later in the year if he has done enough to earn a place alongside some of the biggest names in Australian football in The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.
First published in August, 2017.