Rod Owen felt like punching his boss, so one day the former AFL player did just that and in the process earned himself a nomination for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.
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.
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.
The man known as ‘Rocket’ got so fed up one day that he lashed out at his boss. The punch broke the boss’ nose and jaw so badly that his face had to be surgically reconstructed with microplates and titanium screws. Owen was sentenced to 18 months in Dhurringile prison farm, and served nine months.
What was discovered only recently was that the boss provoked the hiding with a joke about paedophilia, and that Owen himself was molested as a child. He was abused by a man named Darrell Ray, who was his primary school librarian and sports coach. He was also abused by Albert Briggs, who was an official at the St Kilda club where Rod played as a child and an adult. Owen revealed that Briggs molested him in the change rooms before junior Grand Final at the MCG. Briggs left the club a hero, Owen eventually left in disgrace.
The abuse as a child traumatised Owen for years, and provoked drug, gambling and alcohol addiction. At just 23 years of age, he’d accrued a $150,000 gambling debt and his alcohol and drug benders could last for weeks. He is remembered for 63-day bender, after which a teammate found him lying unconscious and bloodied in a gutter outside the Portsea pub. He was also caught drunkenly driving at 150 kilometres per hour down the Nepean Highway.
The highly-talented athlete also paid $30,000 in compensation in 2004 to a woman who complained that he had assaulted her outside a Melbourne hotel.
Owen’s story mirrors that of rugby union star Tony Daly, whose life spiralled into drug and alcohol addiction, and crime, in response to abuse he suffered as a child at boarding school. Both players have taken legal action against their respective schools.