It takes a very special ability to play professional football. It takes an even greater talent to be punished by your governing body when your competition is not actually taking place. So far, however, 10 players have achieved that rare honour, and earned nominations for The Frownlow Medal.
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.
10 Australian-based footballers have been nominated for The Frownlow Medal in 2020 for breaching regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of them have been suspended or in some way punished while they wait for their respective competitions to resume.
The first COVID-19 victims were AFL players Nick Larkey and Cameron Zurhaar, who hosted a raucous party during the initial stages of the lockdown. Fellow AFL player Lachie Hunter soon joined them, after he was caught drink driving, smashing into parked cars, fleeing the scene and, worse still, smashing into the car of his girlfriend’s parents – oops. Just moments later, Adelaide Crows player Tyson Stengle was also punished for drink driving.
NRL players then got in on the act, in order to defend their Frownlow record. Every single winner of The Frownlow Medal has been a rugby league player, including code-swapper Karmichael Hunt, who won in 2018.
Nathan Cleary restored some honour for the NRL, when he was found ‘hosting’ a group of young women at his house. He first denied any wrong doing, but was then seen on social media dancing with the girls – oops. A trio of NRL players came to the defence of their code. Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell and Tyrone Roberts-Davis were caught shooting, assembling with a group of friends and riding dirt bikes on a beach. They were caught when one of them posted the incriminating photos on his own social media account.
Then it was the turn of the anti-vaxers. Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly got themselves stood down by the NRL for refusing to take a flu vaccination. Without the vaccination, authorities will not let any player participate in the competition, which is scheduled to resume in late May.
The breachers face tough opposition for The Frownlow Medal this year.
Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira Naera were kicked out of the NRL for helping some school girls with their homework,
The Christian Soldier.
Manase Fainu was nominated for allegedly stabbing someone at a church dance.
Curtis Scott and Joe Ofahengaue fell foul of police for excessive celebrations on Australia Day, and this fuelled rumours that Ofahengaue will play for Australia, rather than Tonga, in future internationals.
Youngster Izaia Parese was stood down by the Broncos for drug-related offences.
Josh Reynolds continued the tradition of bizarre Frownlow nominations, after a personal controversy prompted a strange post on his social media account designed to defend him from allegations.
Of course, they are all competing against the two front runners for the title this year, Jarryd Hayne and Jack de Belin, whose never ending court cases for alleged sexual assault have still not been heard.
Picking the winner of The Frownlow Medal in 2020 is proving as difficult as picking the premier of the four major football codes in Australia in 2020.