Former Rugby Union player Israel Folau has failed in his bid to win The Frownlow Medal, despite posting a homophobic message on social media which sparked a huge social controversy.
Folau claimed that homosexuals will go to Hell, in accordance with his conservative Christian views. The post cost Folau his multi-million dollar contract with Rugby Australia and divided opinion across the country.
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 code-swapper Karmichael Hunt was the most recent recipient
The talented footballer was sacked because he had already been warned about a similar post some months earlier. He then engaged in a lengthy court battle with Rugby Australia and missed out on playing in the world cup where the Wallabies performed poorly.
The post set off one of the most controversial debates of the year, as politicians, talk back radio hosts, breakfast show presenters, Christians, the LGBTQI community and members of the public shared their views on the topic.
The enormous controversy, however, was still not enough to win Folau the biggest prize in Australian sport.
Because 2019 was the most most competitive year in the history of The Frownlow Medal, with players being charged with sexual assault, violence against women, stabbing, drug and alcohol abuse and gambling on their own games. A misguided social media post was simply not enough this year.
The controversy also means that one of the most talented footballers of the modern era may never play League or Union again. He will never play AFL again, but is unlikely to be missed by fans of that sport.
He’ll be forced to watch football, and The Frownlow Medal, from the sidelines. At least his Frownlow failure will give his army of Christian soldiers something else to complain about.