“I’ll get inside you and take you to Tigerland,” promised one Richmond player to another, and the experience was deemed so pleasurable that it was repeated many times. In the locker room, singing the team song while celebrating a victory, and in full view of the cameras, Jayden Short, Nick Vlastuin and Jack Riewoldt touched their teammates in very private places and thus earned themselves a nomination for The Frownlow Medal.
Short, Vlastuin and Riewoldt were caught on camera touching teammates’ genitals and attempting to put their hands in places that a footballer’s fingers have not been since Frownlow Hall of Fame inductee John Hopoate put his where the sun don’t shine during a rugby league game. Reports also emerged that St Kilda player Dan Butler is fond of a fondle after the game, and may have picked up the habit while playing at Richmond.
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 nominations are some of the most bizarre in Frownlow history, and the ‘hand balls’ sparked a divisive debate across social media. Some fans believe its just harmless fun between teammates and part of professional sport, while others claim the habit is disgraceful, disgusting, a bad example by role models, and even constitutes sexual assault.
The players have also failed to explain their fascination with Mabior Chol, who was on the receiving end of their touching on numerous occasions. Fans are also asking what the Richmond players would have done if they’d lost the games.
The incident became even more controversial when Richmond staff shut down questions about the grabbing during a post-match press conference. The AFL, meanwhile, issued an official statement labelling the actions “…inappropriate, unacceptable and juvenile.”
All four players have been invited to attend the awards night for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame later this year, and fellow nominees are being warned not to turn their backs.