Michael Gardiner emerges from the underworld.

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.

Image: NuNa

Fondlers, Teachers, Rapists (?) and Breachers battle for The Frownlow Medal.

The Frownow Medal has become a battle between the Breachers, the Teachers, the Fondlers and three alleged rapists in 2020, and the winner will be announced in a matter of weeks. While the nominees prepare for the awards night for The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame, we take a look at the favourites for the most prestigious award in Australian sport.

Elijah Taylor is favourite at the time of writing. The AFL player pleaded guilty to physically assaulting his partner and has already been awarded a Wife Beater tattoo, as well as being fined and dropped by the Sydney Swans.

Taylor is not in prison, but NRL players Jarryd Hayne, Jack de Belin and Tristan Sailor could be. Hayne is currently in court for alleged sexual assault of a woman, and will be hard to beat if he is found guilty. Sailor and de Belin face similar charges but may not complete their court cases in 2020, so may have to hope for Frownlow glory in 2021.

Manase Fainu is also waiting for the courts to decide his fate. The rookie NRL player is still up on charges of stabbing someone – at a church dance.

The (alleged) rapists also have to contend with the Teachers and the Breachers.

NRL players Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera are the Teachers. They offered private study sessions to teenage girls they met on an official Canterbury Bulldogs school visit, and were sacked by the NRL. They were later welcomed back into the NRL, as the girls were of legal age, and because the girls drastically improved their grades.

A total of 31 players breached strict COVID-19 protocols this year, and earned Frownlow nominations as a result. The most famous was Nathan Cleary, whose performance on TikTok impressed fans more than his performance for the Panthers in the Grand Final. Lachie Hunter’s breach included alcohol abuse, fleeing the scene, drink driving and smashing into parked cars, including one that belonged to his girlfriend’s parents – awkward.

Footy Fondlers

AFL players clearly have a fascination with other players’ private parts. Cameras caught Nick Vlastuin, Jack Riewoldt, Jayden Short, Dan Butler, Jayden Hunt and Christian Petracca practising their handballs with their teammates.

Dual nominee

Tyson Stengle earned two nominations in one year. The first for drink driving in an unregistered car while disqualified from driving, and the second for possession of illicit drugs.

Yet again, AFL and NRL players dominate the nominations for The Frownlow Medal. Rugby Union and Football players did not earn a single nomination, while the NRL earned 31 and the AFL 23. Will Taylor become the first player to win the award outright for the AFL?

Image: NuNa