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

Matt Dunning Drops One on His Teammate in Race for Frownlow Honours.

Former Super Rugby player Matt Dunning broke the nose of a teammate in a determined effort to be inducted into The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.

Dunning broke the nose of Waratahs teammate Des Tuiavii in 2003 during a drunken end-of-season celebration at which he was also accused of annoying members of the public.

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 and fellow 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.

The former Wallaby claimed the incident occurred after he drank too much in order to forget about his ill-advised drop goal attempt which severely damaged the Waratahs chances of victory in the Super Rugby competition.

Sources from within the Waratahs camp, however, revealed the true cause of the scuffle between two gentlemen engaged in The Game They Play in Heaven. Both players had apparently volunteered to collect the next round of drinks from the bar, when the following conversation ensued.

“I insist,” said Dunning.

“No, I insist,” replied Tuiavii.

“No, Sir, you are far too kind.”

“No, please, allow me”

“No, I couldn’t possibly, I simply won’t allow it.”

“Your valour knows no end good Sir, but I implore you to allow me to procure the refreshments for our party…”

‘Whack!’ Dunning punches Tuiavii in the face.

“As I said, I insist”

Image: NuNa

Why are we called Rebels?

Marika Koroibete, Isi Naisarani and Pone Fa’amausili play rugby for the Melbourne Rebels but got into trouble for being rebels. The trio were dropped from the next Wallabies game after breaking team curfew to have a few drinks together, and have earned nominations for The Frownlow Medal.

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.

Koroibete, Fa’amausili and Naisarani will not play in the Bledisloe Cup against the All Blacks after taking leftover alcohol to their room to continue drinking after an official team function. The players apparently kept drinking for more than two hours and were reported by a team official.

The official statement from the Wallabies said there was “no illegal behaviour, no damage and no complaints made. No further investigation will take place, or any further action”. Thus, there was no rebellion, aside from breaking curfew. Even when the Rebels rebelled they did not stage a rebellion or do anything particularly rebellious. They must be wondering why they’re called Rebels.

Koroibete was nominated for Frownlow honours in 2019 for ‘liking’ the homophobic social media posts which saw Israel Folau kicked out of rugby in Australia. Naisarani and Fa’amausili earn their first nominations, and all three players will be looking forward to the Frownlow awards night, where they can drink as much as they like for as long as they like.

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

Everyone’s favourite footballer nominated for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.

The most popular figure in Australian football, Wendell Sailor, has finally been nominated for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. Fans of the Frownlow and Sailor have been calling out for his nomination since the award’s inception and have finally had their voices heard.

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 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.

Sailor was nominated for returning a positive test for cocaine in 2006, while he was playing for the Waratahs in the Super Rugby competition. The duel international received a further nomination after being suspended for a clash with a fellow patron in a pub in South Africa.

The great news for Sailor’s fans is that he is now guaranteed to attend the Frownlow Medal awards ceremony as a nominee and a correspondent for one of the media networks who utilise his services.

Fans can also see his smiling face at www.instagram.com/thefrownlowmedal/ alongside a host of Australia’s football heroes.

Image:NuNa

Australia’s biggest homophobe fails to win The Frownlow Medal.

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.

Why not?

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.

Image: NuNa