Former NRL player Joel Romelo has been nominated for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame following a series of offences which saw him in and out of jail since 2016. Romelo pleaded guilty to horrific domestic violence charges and was found guilty of drug and traffic offences.
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. Kiwi international Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015, while Jarryd Hayne 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.
Romelo courted controversy as early as 2007. He was sacked by the Cronulla Sharks for disciplinary reasons and signed with the Penrith Panthers. He was then sacked by the Panthers in 2010 for a drink driving offence, and later complained to the press that he had to catch public transport to training.
The former Bulldogs and Storm player went to prison for offences such as drug possession and trafficking, driving dangerously while unregistered, unlicensed and uninsured, and with meth in his system.
In 2016, he was charged for his role in a meth dealing ring in Darwin. Following an anonymous tip off, Romelo was found with 14g of methamphetamine in his vehicle, and another 2g in his home, alongside $10,000 in cash. He was found to be in breach of bail and was remanded in custody.
A year later, the former hooker was jailed form two years and disqualified from driving as a result of the driving and drug offences. He clearly did not rehabilitate while behind bars, and in 2019 he was jailed for three years for two high speed car chases and domestic violence.
Romelo eventually pleaded guilty to attacking his ex-girlfriend. The court heard that he broke her eye socket during a violent attack, and ripped chunks from her hair, as well as punching and choking her until she almost lost consciousness, because she refused to give him the passcode to her phone.
Romelo joins a long list of Frownlow nominees who have spent time in prison and he may have to watch the awards ceremony for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame on a caged TV in a crowded common room.