The massive problem facing rugby league and rugby union.

You can’t please all the people all the time, but rugby codes are attempting to do just that. They are attempting to appease the LGBTQIA+ community and the devoutly religious at the same time.

Several Manly players recently refused to play in an upcoming NRL match to protest the club’s rainbow jersey promoting the LGBTQIA+ community, and the incident highlights the dangers of sporting organisations trying to appease every member of the community simultaneously.

Seven players are considering boycotting the game against the Sydney Roosters because they object to the promotion of LGBTQIA+ rights on religious grounds. All seven players are devoutly religious and mostly of Pasifika heritage. Players are also angry that they were not consulted about the ‘rainbow’ jersey and that they learned about it through social media.

Manly is the first NRL club to wear a rainbow jersey, and the incident highlights an issue confronting rugby league and rugby union into the future. The jersey was introduced in order to promote inclusion and diversity, and was created to include ‘everyone’ at the northern beaches club.

But does it include everyone?

Obviously not. It does not ‘include’ devout Christians and players of Pasifika heritage, the latter so strongly opposed to the jersey that they are willing to sit out an important game, and presumably sacrifice match payments. Manly is very, very unlikely to win the game against the Roosters without Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolutau Koula and Toafofoa Sipley. (That is, unless the Roosters players of Pasifika heritage also sit out the game in solidarity). It is being called a ‘must win’ game for the Sea Eagles as they try to finish inside the top 8, having already lost superstar Tom Trbojevic through injury.

Furthermore, the jersey is surely an example of bad timing. It will be worn during ‘Women in League’ round, and this debate will take most of the attention away from women and their great contribution to the game.

The conundrum

Does Manly appease a small section of their supporter base, or potential new supporters, or does the club appease an existing group of people on whom they are dependant? Put simply, you can’t win NRL (or Super Rugby) games without Pasifika players.

“Never just about pride”

Manly owner Scott Penn argues the jersey is not just about promoting the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, but in the modern context, ‘inclusion and diversity’ is used to welcome members of the LBGTQIA+ community. This is a large community, but it does not encompass everyone. It does not encompass the devoutly religious, and it does not include most rugby league and rugby union players of Pasifika heritage.

What is it really about?

Manly may be genuinely attempting to welcome members of the LGBTQIA+ community into a sport traditionally closed to non-heteronormative people – or the club could simply be chasing the lucrative Pink Dollar.

The issue will plague rugby league and union from now and into the future. Inclusion and diversity is becoming more prominent in social discourse every year, and every major organisation and corporation must declare a public policy on this subject. Sporting codes must also address the issue. At the same time, rugby league and rugby union must welcome and respect the Pasifika community.

Players of Pasifika heritage comprise about 50% of the registered players in the NRL, and the current Wallabies squad includes 16 of 34 players. Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua debuted in Super Rugby in 2022.

The women’s game is also not immune to the issue. In fact, it may be even more susceptible to the clash of two opposing ‘stakeholders’. Pasifika players also comprise a high percentage of players across the two rugby codes in the women’s game, but also includes more players in openly same-sex relationships. Interestingly, only one ARL/NRL player has ever come out as openly gay, and that was former Manly player Ian Roberts. Women’s football, meanwhile, has already experienced a conflict in this regard.

Haneen Zreika refused to wear the pride jersey when her Greater Western Sydney Giants AFLW team played against Western Bulldogs in 2022 because she is a devout Muslim. Zreika sat out that game. The AFL has a far longer history of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community than league or union, but was not immune to controversy. The Giants were stuck between reaching out to the LGBTQIA+ community, while appeasing the large Muslim community in their heartland of Western Sydney. That said, the incident passed without a great deal of controversy, especially compared to the controversy which surrounded Israel Folau’s social media comments.

Folau lost his contract with Rugby Australia after posting homophobic comments on social media. Folau held the same views while playing AFL (for the Giants) and NRL. Many former teammates from across the three codes ‘liked’ Folau’s comments and thus endorsed them. Many of those players were of Pasifika heritage.

Rugby Australia relies heavily on Pasifika talent, as outlined above, but also relies heavily on sponsorship dollars, much of which was coming from Qantas at the time of Folau’s faux pas. Qantas proudly welcomes the LGBTQIA+ community and is being run by the openly gay Alan Joyce. One cannot underestimate the influence of sponsors (and the Pink Dollar) in the decisions of sporting clubs regarding diversity and inclusion.

The future

Fellow NRL clubs will surely follow Manly’s precedent. It’s inevitable. Their players will have to make a choice – or be forced to make a choice, and the same applies to players in rugby union, many of whom have Pasifika heritage and are devoutly religious. The rugby codes, meanwhile, will have to negotiate a very complex situation in order to keep up with community attitudes and appease a community which sustains the standard of their ‘product’.

Image: NuNa

Brennan Stack joins The Frownlow Medal Wife Beaters Club.

Former AFL player Brennan Stack is the latest footballer to join The Fronwlow Medal Wife Beaters Club after pleading guilty to violently assaulting women.

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.

Horrific CCTV footage shows Stack and another man, Shai Martin, attacking two young women in a Perth carpark in March 2022. The women were left with serious injuries and were taken to hospital, while a third woman was also assaulted during the incident.

According to the CCTV footage, Stack is shown punching and hitting one of the women until she passes out. Martin then appears to drag one of the women along the ground by her hair, while both men are seen kicking a woman in the head. One of the women attempts to escape by crawling along the ground, but is seen and prevented from escaping. Reports also indicate that the players stomped on the victims’ heads and threw a bottle at one – at times while the women were unconscious.

Footage indicates that the incident ends when the police arrive.

What started the assault?

Apparently an argument over car doors slamming into one another.

Stack had been a mentor in the AFL community and took up the head coaching role at Nollamara Football Club in 2022, but was removed from the role once news broke of this incident.

The former Western Bulldogs player joins the following professional footballers in The Frownlow Medal Wife Beaters Club:

NRL

Kenny Edwards

Zane Tetevano

Ben Barba

Jake Friend

Anthony Watts

Isaac Gordon

Richie Fa’aoso

Anthony Cherrington

Addin Fonua-Blake

Kirisome Auva’a

Jarryd Hayne

Jamil Hopoate

Joel Romelo

AFL

Elijah Taylor

Nick Stevens

Liam Jurrah

Andrew Lovett

Wayne Carey

Albert Proud

Brennan Stack

Rugby Union

Craig Wells

Image: NuNa

Blake Ferguson joins a new club.

Just days after losing his contract with a Japanese rugby club, Blake Ferguson has been admitted into The Frownlow Medal Wife Beaters Club following an incident of assault in 2013.

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 former NRL player was recently kicked out of NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu after being arrested for alleged assault and possession of cocaine in Japan, and may struggle to find a new club in either rugby code. However, he has earned lifelong membership of The Frownlow Medal Wife Beaters Club alongside some of the greats of Australian football, and earned himself a coveted Wife Beater Tattoo.

Ferguson was found guilty of groping a young woman in the vagina, without her consent, at a nightclub in Cronulla in 2013. He claimed he had mistaken the victim for another woman, but that claim was dismissed.

The NSW Origin and Kangaroos star joins a long list of outstanding footballers in The Frownlow Medal Wife Beaters Club:

 NameCodeTeams 
1Elijah TaylorAFLSydney SwansFrownlow Medallist 2020
2Nick StevensAFLCarlton Blues, Port Adelaide Power 
3Justin MurphyAFLRichmond, Carlton, Geelong, Essendon 
4Liam JurrahAFLMelbourne Demons 
5Robert LuiNRLWests Tigers, North Queensland Cowboys 
6Stuart WebbNRLSt George Illawarra Dragons, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Sydney Roosters 
7Sam BurgessNRLSouth Sydney Rabbitohs 
8Matt LodgeNRLWests Tigers, Brisbane Broncos 
9Scott BoltonNRLNorth Queensland Cowboys 
10Kenny EdwardsNRLParramatta Eels 
11Zane TetevanoNRLSydney Roosters, Penrith Panthers, Manly Sea Eagles, Newcastle Knights 
12Ben BarbaNRLCronulla Sharks, Canterbury Bulldogs, North Queensland Cowboys 
13Jake FriendNRLSydney Roosters 
14Anthony WattsNRLCronulla Sharks, North Queensland Cowboys 
15Isaac GordonNRLCronulla Sharks 
16Richie Fa’aosoNRLPanthers, Roosters, Eels, Knights, Storm, Sea Eagles 
17Anthony CherringtonNRLSouth Sydney Rabbitohs 
18Addin Fonua-BlakeNRLManly Sea Eagles, New Zealand Warriors 
19Kirisome Auva’aNRLSouth Sydney Rabbitohs, Parramatta Eels 
20Greg InglisNRLMelbourne Storm, South Sydney Rabbitohs 
21Ken McGuinnessNRLWests Magpies, Wests Tigers, North Queensland Cowboys 
 
22Craig WellsRugby UnionNSW Waratahs, ACT Brumbies, Wallabies 
23Jarryd HayneNRLParramatta Eels, Gold Coast TitansFrownlow Medallist 2021
 

Image: Getty Images

Blake Ferguson redefines the Haiku.

Former NRL player Blake Ferguson has created his own style of haiku in the process of losing his contract with a Japanese rugby union club for alleged drug possession and assault.

Ferguson has also earned a nomination for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame just a few months after leaving the NRL.

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.

NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu issued a 10-word statement to sack Ferguson before he had even played a game for his new club, following allegations that the star winger was caught in possession of cocaine and was arrested for punching a patron at a restaurant in the red light district of Tokyo.

“Regarding Ferguson, the player contract was cancelled on January 2nd,” the club confirmed in a statement on January 3. The statement does not conform to the traditional structure of a haiku, but is only slightly different.

Possession of illicit drugs attracts heavy punishment in Japan, and the former NSW and Australia representative could find himself behind bars for a long time.

It is believed Ferguson is penning his own haiku in response to the allegations. It will need to be good, as he may have destroyed his chances of playing either rugby code at any level in the future. Then again, Izaia Parese was sacked by the Brisbane Broncos for drug possession and he’s now playing for the Wallabies.

Aussie fans of ‘Fergo’ can rest easy knowing that their tax dollars are funding consular assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The premiership winner with the Sydney Roosters took only a few months to earn his first nomination for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame, after numerous nominations for The Frownlow Medal during his NRL career. He was found guilty of indecent assault on a woman in 2013, and has admitted to a gambling addiction. He and his partner in crime, Josh Dugan, also distributed controversial photos of themselves drinking alcohol on social media while playing for the Canberra Raiders.

Footy fans now await the publication of Ferguson’s haiku and look forward to another year of off-field scandals and nominations for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.

Image: NuNa

Danny Cipriani and Richard Kingi order a bottle of vodka.

Rugby Union players Danny Cipriani and Richard Kingi have demanded a bottle of vodka be placed next to their plaques if they are inducted into The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. The former Melbourne Rebels players famously stole a bottle of vodka from a bar in 2011 when they weren’t supposed to be partying at all.

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 AFL player Elijah Taylor 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 Rebels team had agreed that they would not go out after losing a game to the NSW Waratahs. Not only did Kingi and Cipriani hit the town, they souvenired a bottle of vodka from behind the bar at a nightclub. Why an England international and Wallaby would need to steal rather than pay for a drink is a mystery…

Cipriani then strengthened his Frownlow chances by staying out late on a different night and failing to turn up to training the next day.

In response to criticism, Kingi and Cipriani said,

“You call the club Rebels, so what do you expect?”

“You think we’re gonna be tucked up in bed by 10pm on a weekend?”

Cipriani and Kingi will both attend the awards night for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame later this year, and have been advised that there will be no need to steal drinks as the bar is open all night long.

Image: NuNa

The Frownlow Medal welcomes back two of its biggest stars.

The Frownlow Medal is delighted to welcome back into its family Israel Folau and Jack de Belin after both moved one step closer to resuming their football careers. Folau and de Belin have been locked out of Australia’s most prestigious award but could return to the field very soon.

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 AFL player Elijah Taylor is the most recent recipient.

Former NSW Blue de Belin is set to play for the St George-Illawarra Dragons reserve-grade team this weekend against Western Suburbs, and once he inevitably returns to first-grade, he will be eligible for The Frownlow Medal. Folau, meanwhile, has launched legal action to force his way back into the NRL via the Queensland lower-grade competition.

Tyhe back-rower has been allowed to play again after his court case for alleged sexual assault dragged on for years but was unable to find a verdict, and all charges were dropped. Folau was kicked out of rugby league and rugby union after multiple homophobic social media posts, but is desperately seeking Frownlow eligibility via a legal case funded by one of Australia’s richest men, Clive Palmer.

Folau’s legal team have accused the NRL and The Frownlow Medal of religious discrimination, and argue that:

“…Israel doesn’t drink, smoke or take drugs. He has never been charged with a criminal offence, he hasn’t assaulted any women…”

How then does he expect to win The Frownlow Medal?

Folau’s many supporters argue that his social media posts should never have been punished because they are an example of free speech.

NSW rugby league officials, meanwhile, have promised to provide extra security for de Belin “to ensure Jack de Belin’s return to rugby league is conducted in the right spirit”. They have advised that “…if anyone goes there with the intention of trying to disturb anyone’s proper enjoyment of the day, we need to be ready to deal with that…” and that anyone planning to display “offensive signs” aimed at de Belin will have those signs removed.

So much for free speech.

Image: NuNa

Israel Folau opens yet another lawsuit.

Former football star Israel Folau has launched legal action against The Frownlow Medal claiming he did not win the award due to religious discrimination. Folau claims his numerous homophobic social media posts warranted a medal and that he will seek compensation through the courts.

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 AFL player Elijah Taylor is the most recent recipient.

Folau has never won the biggest prize in Australian sport, despite being nominated in 2018 and 2019, and despite playing first-grade AFL, for the Wallabies, and for the Queensland State of Origin team. He is also attempting to fight his way back into the NRL, so he can take another shot at winning The Frownlow Medal.

The cross-code star revealed his intention to sue the judges of the prize during a press conference for his planned return to football with the Southport Tigers lower-grade rugby league team in Queensland. Folau has not played professional football of any kind in Australia since his latest homophobic social media post cost him his contract with Rugby Australia.

He claimed to be very confident of winning the court case as he has the financial backing of Clive Palmer and the most powerful ally of all – The Lord Almighty. Folau also accused the Frownlow judges of religious discrimination in not giving him the medal, which went to Karmichael Hunt in 2018, and Ben Barba in 2019, neither of whom profess any strong religious devotion.

Judges of the medal deny any accusations of religious discrimination, or any other form of discrimination, and invite Folau to read the articles on this website, and to peruse http://www.instagram.com/thefrownlowmedal to see that all nominees are judged by their actions alone.

Image: NuNa

Elijah Taylor earns a Wife Beater tattoo.

AFL player Elijah Taylor has joined a long list of professional footballers to have been awarded The Frownlow Medal Wife Beater tattoo after pleading guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend. The talented 19-year-old pleaded guilty to numerous charges for an incident in September 2020 and was sacked by the Sydney Swans.

Taylor has added his name to an illustrious list of players from the major football codes who have all been found guilty of violence against women, including physical assault and sexual assault, and who now display the sought-after tattoo on the fists used to injure their victims.

The list includes players such as:

AFL

Nick Stevens

Justin Murphy

Liam Jurrah

NRL

Robert Lui

Stuart Webb

Sam Burgess (premiership winner, England international)

Matt Lodge

Scott Bolton (premiership winner)

Kenny Edwards

Zane Tetevano (premiership winner, New Zealand international)

Ben Barba (premiership winner, Dally M medallist)

Jake Friend (premiership winning captain, Origin)

Anthony Watts

Isaac Gordon

Richie Fa’aoso (premiership winner, Tonga international)

Anthony Cherrington

Addin Fonua-Blake (Tonga international)

Kirisome Auva’a (premiership winner, Samoa international)

Greg Inglis (premiership winner, Origin winner, Australian captain – for a few hours)

Ken McGuinness (NSW Origin)

and Dylan Walker (premiership winner, Origin, Australia)

And let’s not forget Craig Wells, who was found guilty of raping a teenage girl after plying her with illicit drugs. A far cry from playing for the Wallabies.

Image: NuNa

Warwick Waugh nominated for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.

Former Wallaby Warwick Waugh has been nominated for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame after being caught drink driving. Waugh recorded a mid-range alcohol reading as he was on his way home from a charity fundraiser.

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 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 ex Randwick and Australian representative was fined $800 as a result of the offence, and was ordered to have an interlock device fitted to his car.

The talented forward will no doubt be elated to have earned a nomination for Australia’s most prestigious sporting award, but should not assume that he will be inducted. He joins 30 other former footballers in contention for the hall of fame in 2020. They include past AFL players Heath Scotland, who was nominated for assault, and David Dench and Aaron Lord, who were found guilty of fraud. Another former AFL player, Justin Murphy, was found guilty of violence against women, the same alleged offence which led to nominations for ex NRL players Sam Burgess and Wes Naiqama.

Waugh, meanwhile, will not be the only nominee taking a taxi to the awards night for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame later this year.

Image: NuNa

Matt Henjak will not be sent home from Frownlow awards night.

Judges of The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame have assured former Wallaby Matt Henjak he will not be ejected from the award’s night of nights because, quite simply, anything goes.

Henjak will join some of the greats of Australian football at the gala ceremony after he committed a series of off-field indiscretions, including being sent home from a Wallabies tour.

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. Former NRL player Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015, while former 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.

Henjak was sent home from the tour of South Africa in 2004 for involvement in an incident in a bar. Allegations followed that the victim of Henjak’s behaviour had been paid in order to stay silent.

The talented back began his bid for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame in 2000, when he recorded a conviction for assault in the ACT. He then trashed a motel room in Bombala, NSW, for which he was fined almost $9000 and placed on a good behaviour bond. At the time, he was already on a good behaviour bond for the earlier assault conviction.

Henjak returned with another tilt at Frownlow glory in 2008 when he was sacked by the Western Force for breaking the jaw of teammate Haig Sare during a fight at a Fremantle hotel. The fine this time was $5000 and the suspension was for eight Super Rugby matches.

The former Brumby is confident of his chances of induction into the Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame and even more confident of having a great time at the awards night alongside players who have been nominated for alcohol abuse, assault, domestic violence, imprisonment, public urination and drug offences.

With a guest list like this, anything goes.

Image:NuNa