Manase Fainu wins The Frownlow Medal in 2022.

NRL star Manase Fainu has won The Frownlow Medal in 2022 after beating off 38 fellow wayward footballers. The former Manly hooker won the most prestigious prize in Australian sport for stabbing a man outside a church dance.

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 NRL star Jarryd Hayne won in 2021.

Fainu was found guilty of wounding a person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. During court proceedings, the jury heard that he used a steak knife to stab church youth leader Faamanu Levi, after the pair became involved in an altercation during a church event, and Levi suffered a punctured lung and internal bleeding.

Fainu argued that he couldn’t have committed the crime because he was wearing a sling due to shoulder surgery, but it was the sling which apparently helped eye witnesses identify him as the perpetrator.

2022 saw many familiar faces in contention for the award.

AFL player Jordan De Goey made his annual bid, but was denied – again. De Goey was actually nominated twice. First for appearing on camera making rude gestures at a nightclub in Bali during the AFL season, and then for using a phrase/hashtag that highlights entrenched gender inequality or the plight of mass shooting victims in the USA. On a social media rant attacking the media and his critics, he said:

“Enough is Enough,”

The Collingwood favourite was nominated in 2017, 2018 and 2020, then in 2021 for three separate incidents. De Goey later used the excuse of every naughty schoolboy in Australia – ADHD.

Victor Radley from the Sydney Roosters was also nominated twice in the same year. The first time for simulating a sex act on a teammate’s lap in the dressing room during live coverage of State of Origin, and the second for headbutting Ireland player James Bentley at the Rugby League World Cup, where Radley was playing for England.

Zane Musgrove has been nominated four times for Frownlow honours. He didn’t win this year either, despite being charged with driving with a suspended license. Late in 2021, police stopped Musgrove for driving without lights in Maroubra, and further checks revealed he was driving while his license was suspended.

AFL poster boy Bailey Smith diversified his brand with a Frownlow nomination. He appeared on social media holding a small bag of an unknown white powder and smiling at the camera. There is no evidence that Smith in any way touched or consumed the powder, or exactly what is contained in the bag.

Payne Haas proved he is a Friday Muslim. A Friday Muslim is one who only observes the strict rules of the faith on Friday, while doing whatever they like on other days. Haas was nominated for a drunken fight with Broncos teammate Albert Kelly, and has also been nominated in previous years.

Captain Cubicle and the Titty Fiddler made healines. Captain Cubicle is Kalyn Ponga, the leader of the Newcastle Knights, who was ushered out of a toilet cubicle at a pub with teammate Kurt Mann. It was never revealed exactly what the friends were doing in the cubicle, but it’s clear Ponga was not helping Mann to vomit, as was claimed by Ponga’s father.

The Titty Fiddler is Dustin Martin, another Frownlow favourite. The Richmond star was nominated for appearing in a leaked video touching a woman’s naked breasts from behind at an entertainment venue some years ago.

Manly contributed many nominees this year. As well as Fainu, the Manly 7 were nominated for refusing to wear a Pride jersey in honour of the LGBTQI+ community due to their Christian faith.

It seems that Christian faith lands players in trouble at the Sea Eagles.

In contrast, another player who boycotted a pride jersey received much less attention. GWS Giants AFLW player Haneen Zreika refused to wear the jersey for the second year in a row. She earned her second consecutive Frownlow nomination, but nowhere near as much criticism as the Manly 7. Zreika cited her Muslim faith – is this why she wasn’t criticised as much?

Either way, it proved to the Giants and the AFL that you can’t please all the people all the time when trying to market the sport.

NRL player Talatau Amone made a late charge for Frownlow glory. He was arrested for allegedly chasing a tradie across a rooftop with a hammer, but judges don’t know whether he was simply auditioning for The Block.

NRL players have now won 7 of the 8 medals since 2015, and AFL was the only sport to present any real competition to rugby league’s stranglehold on the award this year.

Fainu was presented with his award via a prison guard, while the rest of the nominees for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame partied the night away at the most debaucherous annual gathering in Australia.

Image: Getty Images

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