Taniela Tupou is known as the Tongan Thor, and the Super Rugby player has become the first official superhero to be nominated for The Frownlow Medal.
Many footballers think, and are told, that they are superheroes, and the social media feed of most of these players reflects these delusions of grandeur, but the only true super human figure in Australian football is Tupou, who earned his Frownlow nomination for ‘liking’ Isreal Folau’s controversial instagram post.
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. NRL player Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015 and code-swapper Karmichael Hunt was the most recent recipient.
As a true superhero, Tupou doesn’t act like normal human beings or follow their lead. The same was true for his reaction to Folau’s post.
The Tongan Thor waited until many other players had liked, (then unliked) the post, and waited for it to become the most controversial story in Australian sport, before he clicked the button to ‘like’.
The turmoil of a huge news story and accusations of homophobia, and the likelihood that the post may prevent Folau from ever playing professional football again, were not enough to deter Tupou. True superheroes face adversity head on. True superheroes welcome a challenge. Tupou threw himself right into the storm.
The future will decide what consequences await both Folau and the players who liked his comments, and will also decide whether any of them win The Frownlow Medal in 2019.