How many A-League footballers have been involved in off-field scandals in recent years?
How many proponents of The World Game have been caught taking or dealing illicit drugs, beating their wives, fornicating with dogs, urinating in public, gambling to excess, abusing alcohol, drink-driving or creating a social media scandal?
Can you think of any? Can you think of one?
If you can’t think of many, or even one, that’s not a surprise, because ‘footballers’ who play in the A-League have been involved in only a few scandals in recent years, compared to players from the NRL, AFL and Super Rugby, whose names constantly appear in the media for controversial incidents.
Where is the evidence?
The evidence can be found in The Frownlow Medal, a satirical award given to the footballer, from across Australia’s four major codes, who commits the worst off-field scandal in a 12-month period. The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame honours players who have committed scandals in previous years.
Previous winners of The Frownlow Medal are Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Corey Norman and Tim Simona, who are (or were) NRL players, and Karmichael Hunt, who played NRL and AFL before finding a home at the Queensland Reds Super Rugby team. Famous Hall of Fame inductees include AFL bad boy Ben Cousins and NRL player Julian O’Neill.
The total number of nominees per code since the awards’ inception in 2015 are listed below:
A-League – 5
NRL – 138
AFL – 57
Super Rugby – 20
#figures correct at time of publication.
What makes the A-League different?
The A-League is the only non-contact sport. Super Rugby and AFL require their players to put their body on the line, while Rugby League is simply brutal.
The A-League is the new, mainstream incarnation of a sport built by migrants and it is far more racially diverse than any of the other codes. The new mainstream appeal of the sport sees it enjoy consistent support throughout the country.
Rugby League emerged from working-class, inner-city Sydney before spreading throughout NSW and Queensland, while Rugby Union players traditionally came from exclusive private schools in those two states.
AFL, meanwhile, attracts players and supporters from across the social divide throughout Victoria and many other states.
Alcohol is a common thread in nominations for players from all codes. So do NRL and AFL players drink more? Are they less capable of holding their drink?
What about Super Rugby players? They certainly enjoy a drink, but they are still less represented in the list of nominees. Can the private school network of Australian Rugby Union simply afford more expensive lawyers to keep their players’ names out of the papers?
A- League players and fans are truly drawn from every race in Australia. The three other codes are still predominantly Caucasian / Anglo-Saxon, although League and Union have seen a huge increase in players of Pacific Island descent. AFL, in particular, has made a deliberate attempt to identify talent among many ethnic groups, particularly the tall, athletic Sudanese men who seem ideally suited to the game. That said, none of the three codes enjoy anywhere near the same multicultural mix as the A-League.
How many A-League players, apart from the marketing masterstroke Usain Bolt, are household names throughout Australia? In fact, how many Socceroos, apart from the recently retired Tim Cahill, are household names outside football circles?
Compare this to the unabashed adoration of AFL players in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria, as well as in SA, WA, Tasmania and the NT. Compare it also to the hero status of League and Union players in NSW and Queensland.
So, can we identify any of the factors listed above as the reason for the lack of off-field scandals among A-League players? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of them.
Who are the five A-League players to be nominated?
To find out, head to http://www.instagram.com/thefrownlowmedal/ or thefrownlowmedal.wordpress.com. Here you can find a full list of the A-League players and every other player who has so far been nominated for Australia’s most prestigious inter-code award.