Former NRL player Ben Barba has won The Frownlow Medal for 2019 after being kicked out of the NRL for the second time in his career.
The 2012 Dally M Medallist lost his contract earlier this year after being charged with public nuisance, and was first banished from the NRL for the use of cocaine.
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.
Barba was caught on security cameras during the pre-season in a heated argument with his partner, and the mother of his children, at a venue in Townsville. The North Queensland Cowboys tore up his contract and he was banned indefinitely from the game in Australia. The flying fullback earned his first Frownlow nomination in 2016 when he was caught with cocaine just moments after his heroic role in Cronulla’s first ever premiership win.
Barba beat the strongest field ever in Frownlow history, including fellow Cowboy Scott Bolton. Bolton pleaded guilty to common assault of a woman and served a lengthy suspension from the NRL. This was one of many incidents of violence against women in 2019.
Zane Musgrove was kicked out of the NRL for the second charge of violence against women during his career, while rookie Liam Coleman was charged for the same reason.
Dylan Walker was a strong contender before his partner dropped charges of domestic violence against him, and he was found not guilty, while Jarryd Hayne and Jack De Belin are still involved in legal cases for alleged sexual assault.
Rugby League players clearly dominated the awards yet again this year. In fact, Barba’s victory means that every medallist has played in the NRL, including code-swapper Karmichael Hunt.
Manase Fainu earned his nomination after being charged with stabbing a man outside a church dance. Many parents are now wondering whether it is safer to let their children play Rugby League than go to a church dance. Fainu will also have to wait until 2020 to learn his fate before the justice system.
Australia’s most famous homophobe, former Rugby Union player Israel Folau, created the most controversy this year with his divisive social media posts, but his actions were simply not enough in comparison to accusations of violence against women.
Jaidyn Stephenson flew the flag for the AFL. He had himself banned for 10 games for illegal gambling, but the challenge from Aussie Rules was fairly weak this year.
The A-League is a perennial poor performer in The Frownlow Medal, but bolstered its representation when four young players were simultaneously investigated for…you guessed it…group sex. After all, footballers can hardly be expected to enjoy the company of a woman all by themselves.
A number of Rugby League players were nominated for sex tapes, adding some spice to the competition yet again.
Even the Australian Rugby League captain earned a nomination. Greg Inglis was caught drink driving and was fined and stripped of the honour of captaining his country. He then retired from the sport after an injury-plagued career.
Barba and his fellow nominees will be resting sore heads in 2020, after the famous Frownlow awards night. Meanwhile, we anticipate another year of off-field drama in 2020.
Happy New Year Ben.