Former NRL player Ben Kennedy has failed a mandated Head Injury Assessment, despite not being hit in the head, and as a result has earned a nomination for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.
A judge ordered Kennedy to undergo the HIA after the NRL star was found wandering around the Australian Border Force Detector Dog base in Sydney in the early hours of a winter morning, in shorts and thongs. Police found Kennedy inside a truck, whose window he had smashed.
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, while Karmichael Hunt is the most recent recipient.
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.
Police tendered the transcript of the HIA as evidence in the court case. An excerpt of the transcript read:
“Ben, why did you enter the Border Force facility?”
“How did you get in?”
“Why were you only wearing thongs and shorts?”
“Were you at a NSW Blues function the night before?”
During the investigation, authorities also questioned Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton and asked him why Australia’s most highly-trained detector dogs were not able to detect the presence of a drunken former footballer and prevent him from entering the high-security facility.
“Well, Ben is white, male, a NSW and Australia representative and a role model to young people, so he poses no threat to the Australian public. Getting drunk, even when taking painkilling medication, is a great Aussie tradition and an integral part of our culture and our values,” Mr Dutton said.
Kennedy’s chances of being inducted increased after news that he was previously involved in a drunken pub fight with Knights teammate Andrew Johns in Newcastle many years ago.
He was asked about being the first nominee for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame in 2019, and his chances of being inducted,
“Dunno,” he replied.
The former Newcastle, Manly and Canberra forward has earned the dubious honour of being the first NRL player to fail a HIA despite not being hit in the head, but has he done enough to enter The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame alongside some of the greats of Australian sport?