Can Jarryd Hayne return to glory?

Former NRL player and current prisoner Jarryd Hayne could claim the greatest prize in Australian sport this year. Hayne is the favourite to win The Frownlow Medal, ahead of 61 professional footballers who have earned nominations for all manner of off-field scandals.

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 is possibly the most talented player to have never won a grand final. He came close with Parramatta one year, and almost single-handedly won a State of Origin series for NSW on one occasion. He now languishes in prison after being found guilty of sexual assault.

Can anyone beat Hayne?

Former NRL player Mananse Fainu poses a strong threat. He is still awaiting the outcome of his legal proceedings after he was accused of stabbing someone outside a Mormon church dance back in 2019. Another Dragons player, Tristan Sailor, was also accused of rape but has not been found guilty as COVID-19 slows down court proceedings in Australia.

Other challengers

Hayne saw off the challenge of another accused rapist, fellow NRL player Jack de Belin. The Dragons and NSW player was found not guilty of sexual assault after a long court case, but is still in contention after attending Paul Vaughan‘s infamous BBQ. This unsanctioned house party led to nominations for another 11 Dragons players, and created the Matt Dufty Fun Run around the streets of Shellharbour.

Corey Norman won the medal in 2016 and was also at the BBQ. He thought he could outsmart the cops by fleeing on foot, but he left behind his phone and car – with personalised number plates. It was his second nomination of 2021, after getting into a brawl outside Northies.

Gender equity

2021 marked a milestone for The Frownlow Medal. Nita Maynard became the first woman to be nominated after getting drunk and taking on a bouncer at Northies. Fellow NRLW player Millie Boyle followed her lead and earned a nomination after being caught in a toilet tryst with misguided NRL player Adam Elliott.

The Breachers

Breaching COVID-19 protocols earned nominations for many footballers this year, even though that particular scandal failed to win the Frownlow for any nominees in 2020. Footballers never learn. Many players breached some form of protocols, including perennial nominees James Roberts, and fellow NRL player Josh Dugan, who was caught by police more than 3 hours from home, twice, on the same day.

Jai Arrow and Api Koroisau were both punished for smuggling women into their restricted hotels rooms during the State of Origin series. Koroisau is married, and Arrow is sponsored by a food delivery company which guarantees fast and efficient delivery.

NRL dominance

NRL players look determined to win back what they believe is their birthright, after Taylor claimed it for the AFL in 2020. They comprise 47 of the 61 nominees. They also supplied two of the most bizarre nominations. Victor Radley was punished by the NRL for tackling someone, while Lachlan Lewis was caught trying to sell a speaker on EBay, after stealing it from a room in the Bulldogs’ hub.

AFL defence

The AFL defence looks flimsy. Jordan De Goey earned three nominations in one year, for essentially being Jordan De Goey, while Taylor Walker made a racist comment and a pathetic attempt to apologise for his racist outburst. Nine more AFL players were nominated for relatively minor offences, and so far they look unlikely to reclaim the medal.

Super Rugby

Super Rugby has offered four candidates. Suliasi Vunivalu earned his nomination before even playing a game in his new code, while three Rebels Marika Koroibete, Isi Naisarani and Pone Fa’amausili had a few quiet drinks in their team hotel and broke curfew while playing for the Wallabies. Apparently Rebels are not allowed to rebel.

A- League Absence

The A-League has never won The Fronwlow Medal and has failed to supply any candidates in 2021. Why?

Hayne might be accepting The Frownlow Medal from his prison cell later this year, but it is only September, and four months is a very long time in football.

Image: NuNa

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