A woman could enter The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame for the first time in the award’s history after former AFL player and coach Dean Laidley cemented his nomination. Laidley was a man when first nominated on charges of stalking but is currently transitioning to a woman and is known as Dani.
Laidley’s scandal fits into the bizarre category of Frownlow nominations and involves arrest, breaching bail, stalking, cross dressing, accusations of transphobia, leaked photos, classic tabloid journalism and an official police investigation. Laidley recently pleaded guilty to the charges but avoided conviction.
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.
Female footballers are eligible for the prestigious award but not one has ever been nominated, because not one has ever committed an off-field scandal.
Laidley was found late one night dressed in women’s clothing and wearing a wig, and was subsequently arrested and charged with stalking. During the court case, it was revealed that the behaviour included leaving flowers on the victim’s car and phoning her 43 times in one day, as well as loitering outside and photographing her Melbourne home and attending her workplace over a week between April and May.
Laidley is also reported to have said:
“I want to walk you down the aisle. I want to make you the happiest person in the world”.
“Let me in. We are meant to be together.”
The story sparked further controversy when photos of him still in disguise inside the police station were leaked to the press. The appearance of the photos in tabloid newspapers sparked outrage from Laidley’s legal team and the public, who labelled it a gross invasion of privacy. The leak provoked an official inquiry from Victoria police and seven police employees were apparently suspended and another six were transferred to other duties.
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.
Will Laidley make history and earn a place in The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame later this year?