Former NRL player Sam Burgess and his South Sydney club have gone to extraordinary lengths to earn a nomination for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. The champion forward was featured in a shocking media expose which carried allegations of domestic violence, intimidation, drug abuse, adultery and a massive cover up on behalf of the Rabbitohs.
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.
Burgess is currently facing a charge of intimidation (DV related) against his father in law, which prompted police to take out an apprehended violence order against the star forward.
The lengthy expose in The Australian newspaper alleges that Burgess:
- Physically assaulted his heavily pregnant wife
- Abused illicit drugs
- Went on multi-day drug and alcohol-fuelled benders, including when his pregnant wife was admitted to hospital.
- Intimidated and verbally abused his wife
- Threatened his wife
- Abused prescription medication
- Committed adultery with a young woman, while his wife was pregnant, and threatened the woman to stay silent.
- Submitted a blood test for drugs under a false name
The newspaper report also suggests that the current Rabbitohs assistant coach may have been protected by the NRL when he was involved in a sexting scandal in 2018 during the NRL finals series. He was cleared of any wrong doing at the time.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs club has been accused of not only covering up the allegations against Burgess, but of appointing him captain. The report claims that a doctor injected Burgess with liquid tranquilliser then put the father-in-law’s name on the prescription, and that another doctor conducted a secret drug test in an underground car park at the famous South Sydney Juniors club.
The scandalous behaviour is a major step up from Burgess’ previous Frownlow nominations. In 2016, 2018 and 2019, he was nominated for misuse of social media, which included taking a photo of himself while driving and posting it on his own social media account. This hardly compares to the actions of previous inductees and demonstrates more cluelessness than malice. His current nomination, however, places him in a very strong position for induction into the hall of fame.
Also fighting for induction are former AFL players David Dench, Heath Scotland, Justin Murphy and Aaron Lord, plus ex-NRL players Wes Naiqama and Daniel Conn, as well as the head coach at the Rabbitohs, Wayne Bennett.
Naiqama and Murphy join Burgess in an attempt to join the Frownlow Wife Beaters Club.
Murphy was first sentenced to prison for six months in 2017, after it was discovered that he had abused his then girlfriend both physically and financially. In one of the more severe incidents, Murphy held the woman down and attacked her with a blowtorch. Her injuries were so severe that she was forced to have a finger amputated. He then returned to the woman’s house a year later, got naked and ignited the same blow torch, threatening to burn his ex and her house.
The former Geelong, Carlton, Essendon and Richmond player also managed to withdraw money from her bank account without her permission, and she was forced to move house on numerous occasions so that Murphy would not find her, even after he was released from his first stint behind bars. He then served another 59-day sentence for what was described as a sustained campaign of terror against his ex-partner.
Naiqama is suspected of acts of domestic violence against his former girlfriend, the singer Paulini. It is believed that the alleged violence is the underlying theme in Paulini’s song ‘Scarless’.
Conn recently pleaded guilty to destroying property, intimidation and breaching an AVO after throwing a rock through a window of the Hustle Boxing gym in Potts Point last year and for returning to his former workplace despite being told to leave.
The former Roosters, Bulldogs and Raiders backrower was also found guilty of faking painkiller prescriptions. In 2008, Conn presented a false prescription for Valium and Tramal at a Gold Coast pharmacy. During the subsequent investigation police discovered that he had used another false prescription the previous year. Conn refused to be interviewed by police and was fined $5000 and ordered to do community service.
Conn also appeared on reality TV…twice.
Dench spent four months in jail in 2008 as punishment for his role in a scheme to defraud Victoria University out of millions of dollars. The former North Melbourne fullback and captain was charged specifically with nine counts of obtaining property by deception and aiding and abetting the receipt of a secret commission.
Scotland was involved in a brawl which left one man unconscious at the Mulwala Ski Club near Yarrawonga. As a result, he was formally charged with common assault, assault occasioning bodily harm and violent disorder. The ex-midfielder was given a two year good behaviour bond without conviction.He also avoided conviction for an assault charge in 2005.
Lord pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception. He claimed that he had earned no money during the time in question, but he had actually earned more than $170,000. In total, he made 73 false claims to Centrelink. Lord also admitted to abusing drugs and alcohol as his life descended into chaos and his marriage broke down. He also lost his house during these turbulent times and was handed an 18 month community corrections order and forced to complete 150 hours of unpaid work, as well as undertaking alcohol and mental health treatment.
Bennett, meanwile, breached the COVID-19 bubble by eating out at a restaurant in Sydney.
The police and the NRL are both conducting their own investigations into the Burgess matter, and their findings will determine if the Englishman has done enough to earn induction into The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.