Newcastle Knights legend Andrew Johns has become the first Rugby League Immortal to be nominated for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame following a string of incidents involving alcohol, drugs, racism, prostitution and sexual harassment.
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 before Corey Norman in 2016 and Tim Simona in 2017.
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.
Johns made his first bid for Frownlow honours when he was arrested for fare evasion on the London Underground. UK Police later found ecstasy in his possession and after first claiming someone had planted the drugs on him, Johns confessed to possession and also to using illicit drugs, and alcohol, during his illustrious football career. The drug and alcohol confession coincided with the launch of his autobiography.
It was also later revealed that the halfback’s well-known drug and alcohol use is one reason he was not offered a contract to switch codes to Rugby Union.
Racism was the cause of another scandal. The Newcastle champion was accused of a racist sledge of Queensland player Greg Inglis during a NSW State of Origin training session. The comment caused indigenous player Timana Tahu to leave the Blues camp in disgust.
The next incident was a little more joyous. Johns was a key player in a controversy related to betting on horse racing, which involved Gai Waterhouse, Tom Waterhouse, John Singleton and brothel owner Eddie Hayson, with whom Johns has had a long-standing connection.
Johns then enjoyed a few quiet years, in which he worked in coaching and commentary, but he returned to the headlines in 2015.
Photos spread throughout the internet of Johns passed out drunk at Toowoomba airport, in Queensland. It was later discovered that Johns had drunkenly propositioned a woman while waiting for his flight. When the woman refused his advances and told him she was married with children, he apparently replied,
“…did you have a caesarean birth?”
The woman described his behaviour as “…disgusting, disgraceful” and stated that it set “…a very bad example.”
The controversy saw Johns dropped from the Channel 9 commentary team for a period of time.
Andrew Johns won every accolade possible in the sport of Rugby League. He was even inducted into The Australian Sport Hall of Fame in 2012. He would appear to have won it all. One honour remains, however; induction into The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.