Former NRL player Jarryd Hayne has won The Frownlow Medal in 2021 after being sent to prison for sexually assaulting a woman on NRL Grand Final night in 2018. Hayne saw off the challenge of more than 70 professional footballers to win this year’s medal and is the sixth NRL player to receive the honour.
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 was the 2020 recipient.
The former NSW and Australia star was found guilty of raping the woman at her home on the NSW Central Coast, and apparently asked a taxi driver to wait for him while he committed the crime. He was eventually sentenced this year after a lengthy legal process.
Unfortunately for Hayne, he was not able to attend the awards night for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame, and he had to accept a replica of the award in the TV room at Cooma Correctional Centre. The replica was made by a fellow inmate out of Play-doh and had to be returned to guards immediately. He will receive the real medal once he is released.
Hayne saw off the challenges of two other NRL players who were accused of the same crime. Rookie Tristan Sailor is yet to have his day in court, and fellow Dragons player Jack de Belin was eventually found not guilty of an incident which occurred in Wollongong. De Belin was also nominated this year for breaching COVID-19 rules to attend Paul Vaughan‘s infamous house party, which earned nominations for 10 other players and created the Matt Dufty Fun Run.
Herstory is made
Nita Maynard became the first woman to be nominated for The Frownlow Medal since the award’s inception in 2015. The NRLW player got into a scuffle with bouncers at Northies after a few too many drinks, and paved the way for Millie Boyle and Deni Varnhagen. Boyle was caught in a toilet tryst with fellow rugby league player and multiple nominee Adam Elliott, while Varnhagen was delisted by the Adelaide Crows AFL club for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
Jordan de Goey of Collingwood returned for more Frownlow fun, this time earning three nominations in the same year. He edged out 2016 medallist Corey Norman with two nominations, one of which was for a street fight outside Northies alongside his buddy James Segeyaro. Josh Dugan also earned two nominations, and said goodbye to the NRL after doing very little for the Cronulla Sharks all season.
An ugly trend
Yet again footballers were nominated for alleged violence against women. NRL players Tui Kamikamica, Jamil Hopoate and Anthony Milford were all accused of alleged incidents of violence against women, and are set to face court in 2022.
Footballers always provide so much off-field entertainment, and 2021 was no different. NRL player Lachlan Lewis was nominated for stealing club-owned speakers from his COVID-19 hub and trying to sell them online, while Roosters enforcer Victor Radley was fined for tackling someone – no joke. Tom Starling of the Raiders, meanwhile, earned his second nomination in two years, for exactly the same offence, at exactly the same bar, at exactly the same time of year.
Three clubs were nominated this year. Collingwood FC AFL club for services to racism, and NRL clubs Canterbury Bulldogs for COVID-19 breaches, as well as the Penrith Panthers, who destroyed the Summons – Provan trophy while celebrating their Grand Final victory.
NRL players clearly dominated again in 2021. Not one A-League footballer was nominated, only four Super Rugby players were eligible, and the only other significant incident involving an AFL player was Taylor Walker‘s racism and his cringeworthy apology video.
Footballers then partied the night away after the award announcement, while poor Jarryd was sent back to his cell.
Image: Dan Pelad