The Todd Carney cup for bad publicity in the NRL
It was a bumper year of on-field and off-field misbehaviour in the NRL, with incidents including but not limited to a player being knocked out with a fire poker at a charity party (admit it, nobody had that on their NRL player behaviour bingo card), a positive cocaine test, fraud squad raids, match-fixing allegations, coin toss deceit (where will it end?), the Corey Norman/MDMA/muscle relaxant/Star Casino quadrella (we’re actually leaving out a few items there, too), and Junior Paulo disguising himself as a third-grade player, which we thought was great fun.
But the winner in a unanimous points decision (a boxing career surely isn’t far off) is poor old Jarryd Hayne, who managed to get the words “pornography”, “Gold Coast”, “mishap and “school” into the one headline. “It’s unfortunate and all I can say [is] it definitely was not Jarryd’s device,” said a representative for Norton, for whom Hayne was giving a talk on Wi-Fi security to 200 high school kids when some suspicious internet search history information flashed up on the screen. We’re certain it was an educational experience for all.
Honourable mention: Jason Taumalolo and Tautau Moga, who were fined $2,500 apiece by the North Queensland Cowboys for egging cars. We’re just glad the club brought an end to the schoolboy hijinks before any innocent party received an atomic wedgie.
The Arthur Tunstall award for public oratory
Yes, Eddie McGuire has effortlessly scooped this prize again, doubling down on his rank stupidity of previous years by joking that the AFL journalist Caroline Wilson should be held under water and drowned. Turns out that was an image instilled in McGuire as a young boy, when his older brother Frank’s friends used to try to hold him under the water at the local pool. Paging Dr Freud.
In the aftermath, The Footy Show’s leery bozy-in-residence Sam Newman fumed at the “second-tier media” types and “perfumed excrement” always seeking to bring him and his friend down, which perhaps didn’t say much for the emotional resilience of either. Regardless, Newman’s hateful outburst was at least an insight into the thoughts clanging around inside the vast chasm of his mind – it has been many years since his mood could be read from facial expressions alone.
The Coach Taylor perpetual windbreaker for inspirational coaching gestures
When Luke Beveridge draped his Jock McHale medal over the shoulders of the injured Bulldogs captain, Bob Murphy, he not only honoured a champion nd a long-suffering club, he put his muscular arm around the entire game and told us that we can occasionally put aside petty sniping and give each other a hug.
The Mile Jedinak golden microphone for unfortunate gaffes
Goes to Harry Redknapp for his unfortunate start to life as a Central Coast Mariners “football consultant”, a role that apparently didn’t extend to actually learning the club’s name. When asked the name of his new club, Redknapp replied: “It’s the South Coast Mariners. I met the owner, he’s a great guy, an English guy. Peter Storrie’s involved and they’ve got an English coach as well. They asked me if I would do a bit as an adviser.” Good work if you can get it.
The Jerry Maguire golden globe for terrible pay deals
First the AFL lowballed its women players with a startlingly low pay offer, then responded to howls of outrage and met them halfway towards something respectable, though it’s still hard to believe a game swimming such riches can only afford scraps for players putting their bodies on the line and providing lucrative TV content. The wildly popular all-stars encounter aired on primetime TV in 2016 drew more than a million eyeballs for broadcaster Seven, far more than a lot of your average men’s games.
But outdoing that stinginess again was the FFA in its ongoing failure to adequately compensate W-League players, who are becoming more susceptible to code switches and strikes by the year. Entire W-League squads are still paid a salary roughly equivalent to that received by the youngest members of A-League men’s teams. Just sort it out.
The Robert Groenewegen tankard for post-season revelry
Has to go to Tom Liberatore, whose behaviour in the immediate aftermath of the Bulldogs’ grand final win suggested he doesn’t need a lick of booze to come up with truly strange behaviour. The clincher was his club-angering post-season cameo for the Vietnam Swans Australian Rules team in the middle of his end-of-season holiday. “Young Tom shouldn’t be doing those things,” said the Bulldogs list manager, Jason McCartney, in a moment of controlled understatement.
The Frederick Exley gold-plated defibrillator for fan commitment
Bulldogs fan Rob McCarthy almost had his own Spike Milligan “I told you I was ill” moment as his side streaked away to a drought-breaking victory in the 2016 AFL grand final. “They’d wanna have an ambo parked out the front if we get up,” McCarthy said to a fan sitting next to him and, sure enough, in the dying stages of the game he had a heart attack, only to be revived by an off-duty paramedic to the triumphant strains of the club song. McCarthy’s first words upon his resuscitation: “Did the Doggies win?”
The Allan McAlister award for comfortable racism
This was the year blatant racism went mainstream in all walks of life, of course, and footy was no different from the rest of society. An Adelaide father claimed his daughter had been “demonised” for throwing a banana at the Crows’ Indigenous star Eddie Betts (an “unambiguous racist act”, countered the AFL), while a Perth mother described the blackface Nic Naitanui costume she painted on her son was a “parenting win” (in a Facebook post later removed), adding: “I grew a set of balls and painted my boy brown and he looked fanfuckingtastic.” Naitanui’s verdict: I don’t think so. Ours: absolutelyfuckingnot.
The Lance Armstrong wristband for wins people found hard to enjoy
The story of Cronulla’s premiership triumph was either a fitting win for a beleaguered and persecuted group of fans or a bit hard to stomach, depending on your personal allegiances, but there is no denying the joy in its sheer novelty. Paul Gallen got the key to the shire, Scott Morrison looked for the briefest moment like a bloke you’d actually have a beer with, and the fans were left Shark clapping in their sleep after the end of a 50-year drought. All good for the league’s soul, we reckon.
The Foxtel shield for completely misunderstanding your core audience
Would go to Foxtel for their bungling of the Premier League rights if we were being very lazy, but this time it has to go to FFA, Melbourne Victory and the security contractors who completely alienated active Victory fans and forced many to seek alternative entertainment on weekends. It’s almost like the entirely unique attendance culture was the reason that people actually pumped money into the A-League’s coffers in the first place.
The Scott Muller sympathy card for being thrown to the wolves
Poor Joe Mennie. He didn’t pick himself, after all, but the South Australian quick timed his run into the Test side both brilliantly – in that the end of the Rod Marsh selection era put literally anyone in contention – but also disastrously, in that he should be called up for a debacle like the Hobart Test. Six team changes and many thousand airings of the David Warner OLED TV commercial later and poor Mennie is a fading memory, but they can never take that baggy green cap away from him.
The SK Warne pizza voucher for most Shane Warne thing of the year
This is obviously a foregone conclusion, but boy weren’t there some beauties in 2016? There was WarnieMojis, the app literally nobody asked for, the Warnie bong, released in honour of 420 Day, and the various travails of the Shane Warne Foundation (with a guest appearance from Waleed Aly), but in a packed field the story that stood out for us was Warne’s calm assertion during his stint on I’m a Celebrity that human beings evolved from … drum roll … aliens.
“If we’ve evolved from monkeys, then why haven’t those ones evolved?” Warne asked the dancer Bonnie Lythgoe, a fellow contestant, as they lounged on a riverbank in South Africa’s Kruger national park. “Because, I’m saying, aliens. We started from aliens.”
“Look at those pyramids, Bonnie. You couldn’t do them. You couldn’t pull those ropes, huge bits of brick and make it perfectly symmetrical. Couldn’t do it. So who did it?” Maybe they turned a few monkeys into humans and said, ‘Yeah, it works.’” The whole episode proved there really are topics of conversation other than leg-spin and pizza toppings with which the cricket great can captivate the nation. Good areas 51, Shano.
The Nick D’Arcy commemorative premix can for Olympic transgressions
I guess we should be thankful that it was something as tame as ticket tampering that led to threats of the slammer for Australian athletes in Rio and not some Stilnox-infused Games village orgy, but the $47,000 in fines levied on the “Naughty Nine” made headlines for days.
The Karmichael Hunt poisoned chalice for falling victim to the Swisse curse
Went in spectacular style to the Campbell sisters, Cate and Bronte, who promised the world, delivered relay gold but couldn’t get it done in their individual events after months of pre-loaded Swisse vitamins TV commercials had placed them in David Warner-OLED territory in the minds of a slightly puzzled Australian public.
It was older sister Cate who saved the day with a brutally honest post-race interview after bombing out in the final of the women’s 100m freestyle. “That hurt, not as much as it’s hurting right now,” Campbell said. “I’ve always said that I didn’t need a gold medal to have self-worth and I guess that that’s being put to the test at the moment.” It was heartbreaking.
The John McEnroe broken racket for winding up the general public
It was another weird and wonderful year for Nick Kyrgios, who played like a dream at times and also did his level best to troll the entire universe at every opportunity. He bailed out of a tournament to play in a celebrity NBA game, had his “Nick, you can’t play like that. It’s just not professional” moment, and in between times, actually won tournaments (something his harshest critics tend to ignore). But his most Nick Kyrgios moment was surely his public battle with Australia’s Olympic chef de mission, Kitty Chiller, whose criticisms of Kyrgios and his countryman Bernard Tomic brought a fairly predictable response.
“I mean, if you don’t want to pick me or Bernard, you know, there are plenty of others you can pick to represent your country as well,” Kyrgios said. “If you don’t want two of the best players in Australia to represent your country, so be it.” He kind of had a point there.