Justin Murphy leads The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame inductees for 2020.

The inductees into The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame for 2020 are former NRL and AFL players who have achieved remarkable feats off the field since hanging up their boots. They include wife beaters, fraudsters, drug addicts and footballers nominated for assault and crass self promotion.

The Wife Beaters

Justin Murphy served two prison sentences for violence against women and drug abuse. He first went to prison in 2017 for abusing his then girlfriend physically and financially. On one occasion, Murphy held the woman down and attacked her with a blowtorch. Her injuries were so severe that she was forced to have a finger amputated. He returned to the house a year later, got naked and ignited the same blow torch, threatening to burn his ex and her house.

The former Geelong, Carlton, Essendon and Richmond player also managed to withdraw money from her bank account without her permission, and she was forced to move house on numerous occasions so that Murphy would not find her, even after he was released from his first stint behind bars. He then served another 59-day sentence for what was described as a sustained campaign of terror against his ex-partner.

He completed community service and drug rehabilitation programs, as his legal team claimed the violence was connected to a strong addiction to ice and GHB.

The second wife beater is Sam Burgess. A lengthy expose in The Australian newspaper alleged that the former NRL player:

  • Physically assaulted his heavily pregnant wife
  • Abused illicit drugs
  • Went on multi-day drug and alcohol-fuelled benders, including when his pregnant wife was admitted to hospital.
  • Intimidated and verbally abused his wife
  • Threatened his wife
  • Abused prescription medication
  • Committed adultery with a young woman, while his wife was pregnant, and threatened the woman to stay silent.
  • Submitted a blood test for drugs under a false name

The newspaper report also suggests that Burgess may have been protected by the NRL when he was involved in a sexting scandal in 2018 during the NRL finals series. He was cleared of any wrong doing at the time.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs club has been accused of not only covering up the allegations against Burgess, but of appointing him captain. The report claims that a doctor injected Burgess with liquid tranquilliser then put the father-in-law’s name on the prescription, and that another doctor conducted a secret drug test in an underground car park at the famous South Sydney Juniors club.

Another ex NRL player with claims to a Wife Beater tattoo is Wes Naiqama. There is strong suspicion that Naiqama is the subject of the song Scarless by ex-girlfriend Paulini, which outlines domestic violence inflicted on the singer. Naiqama was also earned his spot in the hall of fame after serving four months periodic detention in 2007 for a fourth conviction of driving while disqualified, and for an incident in a pub in Newcastle while playing for the Knights. The police investigation saw him stood down by the Knights.


Assault is a popular crime for inductees in The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame, and it earned a plaque for ex-AFL player Heath Scotland. Scotland was involved in a brawl which left one man unconscious at the Mulwala Ski Club near Yarrawonga. As a result, he was formally charged with common assault, assault occasioning bodily harm and violent disorder. The ex-midfielder was given a two-year good behaviour bond without conviction.


Two of the inductees in 2020 earned their places due to fraud. Former AFL players Aaron Lord and David Dench dishonestly acquired large sums of money to supplement their post-football incomes.

Former Hawthorn and Geelong player Lord narrowly avoided a prison sentence after being found guilty of scamming $60,000 from Centrelink, and he confessed to abusing drugs and alcohol during his post-football career.

Lord pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception. He claimed that he had earned no money during the time in question, but he had actually earned more than $170,000. In total, he made 73 false claims to Centrelink.

As well as ripping off the Aussie taxpayer, Lord admitted to abusing drugs and alcohol as his life descended into chaos and his marriage broke down. He also lost his house during these turbulent times. Lord was handed an 18-month community corrections order and forced to complete 150 hours of unpaid work, as well as undertaking alcohol and mental health treatment.

Dench, meanwhile, spent four months in jail in 2008 as punishment for his role in a scheme to defraud Victoria University out of millions of dollars. The former North Melbourne fullback and captain was charged specifically with nine counts of obtaining property by deception and aiding and abetting the receipt of a secret commission.

The Bomb

Former AFL player and coach Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson was charged with offences including trafficking methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine and LSD, and of possessing prescription drugs without a prescription in 2018.

Police found substantial quantities of drugs in his home, but when he told authorities they were for the Frownlow awards night after party, the charges of trafficking were dropped and he was only punished for the lesser charge of possession.

The Bizarre

Frownlow awards would not be complete without a bizarre nomination, and Daniel Conn supplies us with one. The TV reality star and Instagram model also played in the NRL, and earned his induction for throwing a rock through a window and intimidating staff at Hustle Boxing gym in Potts Point, Sydney, which earned him a conditional release order. He later pleaded guilty to destroying property, intimidation and breaching an AVO, and to returning to his former workplace despite being told to leave.

Conn attempted to blame mental health issues for his wrongdoing and claimed he has attempted to take his own life on three occasions. The former Roosters, Bulldogs and Raiders backrower was also found guilty of faking painkiller prescriptions. In 2008, he presented a false prescription for Valium and Tramal at a Gold Coast pharmacy. During the subsequent investigation police discovered that he had used another false prescription the previous year. Conn refused to be interviewed by police and was fined $5000 and ordered to do community service.

Worse than any of the above crimes, however, is Conn’s career as an Instagram model, and his appearances on reality TV shows Geordie Shore and Ex on The Beach.

Image: NuNa

David Dench awarded honorary Doctorate from The Frownlow Medal University.

Former AFL player David Dench has been nominated for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame after serving time in prison for defrauding a university. Dench spent four months in jail in 2008 as punishment for his role in a scheme to defraud Victoria University out of millions of dollars.

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 and ex NRL player Ben Barba 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.

The former North Melbourne fullback and captain was charged specifically with nine counts of obtaining property by deception and aiding and abetting the receipt of a secret commission.

Dench entered the AFL Hall of Fame in 2008 and was voted North Melbourne best and fairest on four occasions. This makes him the only member of the AFL Hall of Fame to have served time behind bars, but not the first Hall of Famer to be nominated for Frownlow Medal honours. In this elite club, he joins Gary Ablett Sr., Jason Akermanis, Glenn Archer, Wayne Carey, Robert DiPierdomenico and James Hird.

Judges of The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame have reminded Mr. Dench that any attempt to defraud Australia’s most prestigious inter-code award will destroy his chances of induction and deny him the chance of sitting beside some of Australia’s greatest footballers.