Former AFL player and coach Dean Laidley was recently caught in disguise casing The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame in an apparent attempt to earn induction into the most revered turf in Australian sport. Laidley was found late one night dressed in women’s clothing and wearing a wig, and was subsequently arrested and charged with stalking.
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, while NRL player Ben Barba 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.
Laidley declined to comment on the stalking charges, but claimed through his lawyer that he was determined to claim a place in the hall of fame alongside the greats of Australian sport.
The story of his arrest sparked further controversy, when photos of him still in disguise, and inside the police station, were leaked to the press. The appearance of the photos in tabloid newspapers has sparked outrage from Laidley’s legal team and other members of the public, who have labelled it a gross invasion of privacy. The leak is so serious it has provoked an official inquiry from Victoria police.
Reports indicate that the former North Melbourne premiership player and coach was allegedly already on bail when arrested, and that he had previously been charged with breaching a family violence order. He will remain in police custody until May 11.
Cynics have argued that the leak may play into the hands of Laidley, as the added publicity created a greater scandal and subsequently increased the likelihood of induction into the hall of fame. This may have worked, because the incident now includes arrest, breaching bail, stalking, cross dressing, accusations of transphobia, leaked photos, classic tabloid journalism and an official police investigation into a police officer.
Just when footy fans thought the COVID-19 lockdown would rob them of sporting drama, Laidley adds another incident to the long list of scandals which have plagued AFL and NRL since mid March.
The awards night for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame later this year looks like it will be another classic. The question is, will Dean Laidley be able to attend, and if so, will anyone know if he is there?