It’s tempting to think that Jarryd Hayne has The Frownlow Medal locked up for 2021. The former NRL star was just found guilty of raping a woman in 2018 and has one hand on the most prestigious prize in Australian sport – but the result is not certain.
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 AFL player Elijah Taylor is the most recent recipient.
Hayne was recently found guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman in her home on Grand Final evening in 2018. He will most likely spend a substantial time in prison. Normally a rape conviction would guarantee victory in The Frownlow Medal. After all, previous medallists have won for physical assault of a woman, but not sexual assault, or for incidents involving stalking, illicit drug use, sex tapes, gambling and drug possession.
However, Hayne faces strong opposition this year from other footballers who have also been accused of sexual assault. Jack de Belin is still involved in a seemingly eternal court case after being accused of rape a long time ago, and fellow NRL player Tristan Sailor is also being investigated for sexual assault, as was Collingwood player Jordan de Goey. It is not certain when a verdict will be reached in their cases.
Following on their heels are Manase Fainu, who was charged with stabbing a man outside a church dance, and Jamil Hopoate, who has been charged with drink driving assaulting a woman. 2016 Medallist Corey Norman used a street brawl to try to win back the medal, and Zane ‘Last Chance’ Musgrove earned yet another nomination, alongside Asu Kepaoa.
AFL attempted to defend the prize they won last year when Jonathon Patton was caught sending lewd images to women who didn’t want them, and a host of fellow NRL players will keep pressure on the front runners for this year’s medal.
Knights rookie Phoenix Crossland announced the beginning of another NRL season by getting into a pub brawl, while Payne Haas and Corey Harawira-Naera earned repeat nominations. Another Corey from the Raiders, Horsburgh, was caught drink driving, while Suliasi Vunivalu earned a Frownlow nomination before he’d played his first game of professional rugby union. The Broncos have made a significant contribution already, with Kotoni Staggs being accused of homophobia, and Tesi Niu being charged with a driving offence.
In addition, Sharks big man Toby Rudolf told the most costly joke in NRL history, and Roosters forward Victor Radley got punished for tackling a man.
Who will win The Frownlow Medal in 2021?