The Frownlow Medal is delighted to welcome back into its family Israel Folau and Jack de Belin after both moved one step closer to resuming their football careers. Folau and de Belin have been locked out of Australia’s most prestigious award but could return to the field very soon.
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.
Former NSW Blue de Belin is set to play for the St George-Illawarra Dragons reserve-grade team this weekend against Western Suburbs, and once he inevitably returns to first-grade, he will be eligible for The Frownlow Medal. Folau, meanwhile, has launched legal action to force his way back into the NRL via the Queensland lower-grade competition.
Tyhe back-rower has been allowed to play again after his court case for alleged sexual assault dragged on for years but was unable to find a verdict, and all charges were dropped. Folau was kicked out of rugby league and rugby union after multiple homophobic social media posts, but is desperately seeking Frownlow eligibility via a legal case funded by one of Australia’s richest men, Clive Palmer.
Folau’s legal team have accused the NRL and The Frownlow Medal of religious discrimination, and argue that:
“…Israel doesn’t drink, smoke or take drugs. He has never been charged with a criminal offence, he hasn’t assaulted any women…”
How then does he expect to win The Frownlow Medal?
Folau’s many supporters argue that his social media posts should never have been punished because they are an example of free speech.
NSW rugby league officials, meanwhile, have promised to provide extra security for de Belin “to ensure Jack de Belin’s return to rugby league is conducted in the right spirit”. They have advised that “…if anyone goes there with the intention of trying to disturb anyone’s proper enjoyment of the day, we need to be ready to deal with that…” and that anyone planning to display “offensive signs” aimed at de Belin will have those signs removed.
So much for free speech.