Former AFL player Michael Gardiner has surfaced from the underworld in order to accept his nomination for The Fronwlow Medal Hall of Fame. Gardiner has been nominated for numerous incidents, including involvement with a group of alleged underworld figures from Perth.
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 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.
Gardiner was criticised in 2005 for an association with a group of alleged underworld figures in Perth, alongside the human disaster and fellow West Coast player Cousins. The teammates allegedly received phone calls from gangland figures before and after a stabbing at a Perth nightclub, and refused to cooperate with police during the investigation.
The Eagles told Gardiner and Cousins they were on their last warning, but as The Fronwlow Medal has proven, a last warning in professional football is rarely a last warning. The pair were warned that their off-field behaviour would not be tolerated, but Gardiner stayed at the Eagles in 2006, when he was dropped to club football for his involvement in a booze bus incident alongside…Cousins.
Not sacked, just dropped.
Later in 2006, Gardiner had his contract suspended indefinitely, but not terminated, after a drunken traffic accident which earned him only a $5000 fine and a warning from club bosses that they were highly unlikely to renew his contract at the end of the year.
Gardiner was also praised as a mentor to Dustin Martin, who has received numerous Fronwlow nominations, one of which involved trying to stab a woman in the eye with chopsticks. Martin once called Gardiner a ‘Great Man’.
After accepting the nomination, Gardiner returned to the underworld alongside Cousins.