Karmichael Hunt has become the fourth Rugby League player and the first Rugby Union and AFL player to win The Frownlow Medal.
The code-swapping star has played Rugby League, AFL and, most recently, Rugby Union at the highest level, and won the prestigious award after pleading guilty to possession of an illicit substance for the second time in his footballing career. The Queensland Reds player came close to Frownlow glory in 2015, when he recorded his first drug charge, and secured victory this year for repeating the offence.
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 Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015 before Corey Norman in 2016 and Tim Simona in 2017.
Hunt fought off a strong attack from NRL player Jack Wighton, who received a 10-match ban and a fine after taking the Viking Clap into a bar in Canberra during the off-season and emerging with a charge of assault.
South Sydney Rabbitohs player Zane Musgrove challenged for the award with a charge of domestic violence, but lost out to Hunt when the charge was dropped to property damage. Musgrove reportedly ripped a gate off it’s hinges during an early morning argument with his girlfriend.
James Tedesco is the NSW and Australia no 1 and was Frownlow nominee no 1 this year. He made his bid as early as October 2017, when he scuffled with Italy teammate Shannon Wakeman during the Rugby League World Cup. This ushered in a series of nominations for friendly fire. Fellow NRL players and Manly teammates Daly Cherry-Evans and Jackson Hastings had a lovers’ tiff in a strip club after too many refreshments. Rugby Union player Amanaki Mafi rebelled against the Rebels when he landed one on Melbourne teammate Lopeti Timani during a night out.
George Smith provided the most entertaining tale of any nominee. The former Wallaby was arrested in Tokyo for refusing to pay a fare and running way from a taxi driver while drunk on NYE. Smith had been playing professionally in Japan and allegedly assaulted the driver after being chased down. Yes, chased down by a taxi driver. His obvious lack of speed is probably why he didn’t play many games for the Queensland Reds this season.
Mad Monday provided yet another opportunity for players to stake their claim for Frownlow honours. Adam Elliott and Asipeli Fine got naked and led fellow Canterbury Bulldogs in a debaucherous drinking session at a Sydney pub, which was captured by a photographer and splashed across the front page of a newspaper.
NRL player Josh Dugan and AFL player Jordan de Goey made their annual attempt on The Frownlow Medal, while public urination proved popular for players like Nick Phipps, who marked his territory in a Sydney pub during his buck’s night.
Fellow code-swapper Israel Folau earned a nomination and a lot of criticism for a series of homophobic, religious tweets. Interestingly, the footballers who ‘liked’ Folau’s tweets received no such criticism.
The A-League earned only one nomination this year. Avraam Papadopoulos received a suspended jail sentence for illegally betting on football games when he played in Greece. Thus, unless Hunt or Folau decide to add ‘Soccer’ to their resumes, The World Game looks unlikely to win the highly sought-after award. The question then must be asked, why do so few A-League players receive nominations for The Frownlow Medal?
Hunt now has time to select his outfit and contact his supplier before heading to Australian sport’s night of nights, the award ceremony for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.