Former NRL player Michael Jennings has collected his fifth Frownlow nomination after his ex-wife accused him of rape. Jennings has now been nominated in five of the last six years and could finally win induction into 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.
Jennings is locked in a dramatic battle involving himself, his ex-wife and current girlfriend, as well as the media. He is defending civil proceedings in the NSW District Court as his ex-wife is seeking damages for personal injuries, and made allegations that he repeatedly raped her during their relationship. She claims the former premiership winner raped her five or six times and subjected her to emotional and verbal abuse. Jennings has denied the allegations and has never been charged by police.
Media networks jumped on the story after learning that the former NRL star’s new partner made potentially defamatory statements on social media. His current girlfriend is accused of posting defamatory comments about Jennings’ ex-wife.
A soap opera court case is appropriate for a player who surrounded himself with drama throughout his career. Despite representing NSW, Australia and Tonga, Jennings will also be remembered for numerous incidents which saw him earn Frownlow nominations in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. He was eventually kicked out of the NRL in 2020 for taking performance enhancing drugs, and littered his career with incidents including repeated alcohol abuse, offensive behaviour, kicking a boom gate, liking Israel Folau’s homophobic posts and confessing to taking illicit drugs.
Will 2021 see Jennings finally win the accoldaes he deserves?