The Brownlow Medal 2020 ceremony usually takes place in Melbourne, but this year’s event was spread out across Australia.
The bulk of the players in the Queensland bubble were at an event at Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast.
And there were events in Perth and Adelaide, as well as in Sydney and Melbourne.
Things may be all over the place due to coronavirus, but the footy stars and their partners still delivered looks — even though attendees were reportedly told they didn’t need to follow a strict black tie dress code this year.
Here’s who dressed up and who didn’t (spoiler alert: everyone did).
The Brisbane Lions’ Lachie Neale and partner Julie didn’t hold back, with the new first lady of footy donning a sheer floor-length gown and tousled waves.
And Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston rocked a suit and a face mask, captioning his Instagram outfit post: “Brownlow Medal Victorian Style.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne’s Christian Petracca and his partner Bella were #Brownlow ready in Brisbane.
The Brisbane Lions’ Charlie Cameron went for a suave dark velvet ensemble, with his partner Caitlin Seeto in an equally elegant black number.
West Coast Eagles player Luke Shuey and his partner Dani were dressed to the nines.
Shuey said he was disappointed not to be playing this weekend.
Melbourne’s Jack Viney and his wife Charlotte posed for pictures with their baby daughter Mila Grace.
And the Sydney Swans’ Luke Parker cut a dapper figure next to partner Kate Lawrence, who stood out in a red number.
Equally sharp were the Melbourne Demons’ Steven May and partner Briana.
The Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli and Tom Libatore brought their fashion A game, both rocking up to the Gold Coast event in style.
Libatore’s suit even covered up his, “My god you’re greasy” tattoo.
While she swam at the world championships in 2004 and won 14 gold medals, Paton was unable to compete in Athens or Beijing.
She said it hit her “very, very hard.”
She spent six weeks in hospital receiving treatment for her mental health and lives with depression to this day.
“I have good days, I have bad days, I have bad weeks,” she said. “I can have bad months, something will just trigger and whatnot, but I cope with it. I live with it.”
Victorian sprinter Tim Matthews was part of a relay team that won two gold and broke various records at the Sydney games.
It was his second Paralympics after competing in Atlanta four years earlier.
He said there was no doubt the Sydney event was a watershed moment for the disability movement around the world.
“I think people with a disability now have a voice and a lot more exposure,” he said.
Like Sauvage, Matthews is now giving back. He’s currently coaching star long jumper and sprinter Kelly Cartwright — who won gold and silver at the London Games — to qualify for Tokyo.
Matthews has also been working as a talent spotter and trainer with Paralympics Australia.
“They realise they’re eligible for Paralympic sport and then [we] work out which sport might be best suited to them depending on their impairment and their classification,” he said.
“Then to see some of those athletes grow and develop and go on to be Paralympic gold medallists is awesome.”
Danni Di Toro
When wheelchair athlete Danni Di Toro pushes into the stadium with the Australian team for the opening ceremony at Tokyo next year, it will be her seventh Paralympics.
At the Sydney 2000 games, she competed in wheelchair tennis and won a silver medal in the doubles.
“Looking back 20 years is like, I feel kind of old,” she laughed. “But it’s so strange, I feel like that was a moment ago.
“The whole country came together to celebrate everyone, celebrate diversity.”
Di Toro has since switched sports and is now a para-table tennis athlete.
She became a paraplegic after a wall collapsed on her at a school swimming carnival.
For Di Toro, who has been competing for more than 30 years, the Sydney games elevated Paralympic sport to a whole new level.
“You’d enter a stadium, [with] 10,000 people for every match,” she said.
“You know, usually your mum and your dad and your dog comes to watch but for the first time ever, there was actually people watching and staying because what they were seeing was extraordinary talent on display.”
Living in Melbourne, Di Toro’s training for Tokyo has been “pretty crazy” due to the coronavirus lockdowns.
Like many athletes, her coach has been joining her over Zoom and she’s set-up a ball machine in her backyard.
Di Toro has her “fingers crossed” that her seventh Paralympics will go ahead.
“It’s going to be a very different games experience, ” she said. ” But if we can get there, it’s going to be an incredible celebration of so many things.”
Once taboo to speak about, mental health issues are now part of our everyday vernacular, but with eight Australians taking their life every day, we are far from locking in solid solutions to this complex national crisis.
We do know, however, that talking helps, so when sporting heroes – who on-field are the image of strength, determination and in male-dominated sports, virility – publicly address the dark thoughts plaguing their minds, it helps to collectively normalise the conversation.
Sporting superstar Mat Rogers has lived a great life of achievement – among the long list, he played at the top level in NRL and rugby union, has a high-profile media presence, competed on Network Ten’s Survivor and is authoring his autobiography.
But the 44-year-old Queensland Origin legend has not been immune to the effects of mental illness. In fact, he has been quoted saying he feared depression might be a family curse.
After losing his mum, Carol, to breast cancer in 2001, Rogers’ dad, Steve – an NRL legend in his own right and known as one of the greatest Cronulla Sharks players of all time – took his life in 2006.
He was just 51 years old.
Rogers had already experienced the loss of his uncle to the same fate.
For Rogers, being part of a growing group of sports stars – including the likes of NRL’s Greg Inglis and Darius Boyd and AFL’s Buddy Franklin – who are normalising mental health conversations is an important role to assume.
“I didn’t even really know what mental health was back then [in 2006], no one really talked about it and no one really understood it,” Rogers tells SMART Daily.
“Now it’s talked about so much more and understood a lot better. It’s hoped you can pick up the signs and notice something.
“It’s like when you ask someone the question and they’re not OK, they don’t even know where to start. It’s been a lightning rod for their life, that opportunity to speak to someone who is prepared to try and understand them.”
Rogers says we must get better at talking about suicide in a way it does not become the defining factor of someone’s entire life.
“For me, a lot of people they’re nervous to talk to me about my dad because of what he went and done and I hate that,” Rogers says.
“That was not my dad and not my dad’s legacy, that was a moment in time where he succumbed to the darkness of what he was feeling. I honestly think it’s held back him being recognised as the great player he was.”
While Rogers says his sporting career was a “dream run”, he understands the pressures placed on young players.
“Life’s hard. Just life itself is hard,” he says.
“I’m now in sports management and work with a lot of young kids and understand they have to deal with uncertainty and not feeling wanted. It’s a pretty big need for all of us, feeling wanted.
“You throw in celebrity on top of everyone wanting a piece of you, the looking after your family, there’s a lot of stress that goes into a player’s life.
“To have guys like Buddy Franklin and Greg Inglis to be so open about their mental battles, I reckon that is just enormous, I was so stoked to see that. It shows other players it’s OK and that they’re not crazy.
“It’s also important we’re all vigilant as individuals for the people around us. I’ve been in some pretty dark places and the last thing I’ve wanted to do was bring other people into them but I have been fortunate in having a great brother, wife and friends who have been able to recognise that and step in.”
Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney co director Professor Ian Hickie – who became the inaugural Beyond Blue CEO in 2001 – says the change in attitudes to mental health, especially in the NRL has been nothing but positive.
“Working with sport is particularly important if you want to get the public talking and focusing on a particular issue,” Prof Hickie says. He says in the early 2000s Beyond Blue approached some NRL clubs to create mental health awareness, with little success.
“They didn’t really recognise the nature of the problem,” he says.
“It reflected a time and place where the level of community awareness was nothing like what it is now nor was the focus on young people.
“One of the problems is you see these incredibly fit and successful young people and make a wrong assumption that they’re fit in the head.
“I think the superhuman bit has changed. I don’t think sport is any less tough or rough than it ever was, players are still physically incredibly fit and fast but alongside that physical fitness and performance on the field, there’s a lot more attention to getting their head straight.
“We as a society have a long way to go but the fact we are on that journey now is very important.”
Twenty-nine top NRL players have been left out of final-round squads as the top eight teams give their stars a break before the finals.
The Melbourne Storm are resting 12 players, while the Raiders are resting nine
Only one player from last week’s starting side will play this week for the Storm
They will also have their fourth captain for the year, with 22-year-old Ryan Papenhuyzen leading the side
With second spot locked up, Melbourne has led the charge with 12 changes, while Canberra has sat out nine players despite still being in top-four contention.
Parramatta, Newcastle and South Sydney are the only finals-bound teams to go with their best possible side, with the Eels fourth, and the Knights and Rabbitohs vying for a home final by finishing sixth.
It comes after 18 straight weeks of football, with no byes or representative rounds, since the competition’s restart in May.
For Melbourne, not one player will start in the same position they did last week, while they have five uncapped rookies on their eight-man extended bench.
Skipper Cameron Smith and five-eighth Cameron Munster, as well as Jesse Bromwich, Josh Addo-Carr and Jahrome Hughes will all skip the clash with St George Illawarra.
Kenny Bromwich and Suliasi Vunivalu are out while young gun Tino Fa’asuamaleaui — the only Storm player to have featured in every match this season — is battling a calf issue.
Star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen will captain the side for the first time, with the 22-year-old becoming the team’s fourth skipper for the year.
He replaces Nicho Hynes, who moves to the bench and is the only player from last week’s starting side who will play this weekend.
That decision is as much about restricting same-day travel time from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney as it is saving miles in the players’ legs.
“We’re playing the last game of the round on Sunday afternoon so … we could have a five, or at best a six-day turnaround [into the finals].
“So that’s part of the thinking in trying to be as fresh but also as well prepared as we can be for the final.”
Raiders hand out four debuts
At Canberra, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jack Wighton, George Williams, Jarrod Croker, John Bateman and Josh Papalii are among those sitting out the match with Cronulla, with four players named to make their NRL or club debuts.
Centre Jordan Rapana has a “minor knee injury”, while forwards Joe Tapine and Elliott Whitehead are being rested.
They will welcome back Sia Soliola for his first match since suffering a serious facial fracture 12 weeks ago.
George Williams will be replaced at halfback by Sam Williams, who will captain the side in his first game this year.
He will be partnered in the halves by Matt Frawley, making his club debut, while fullback Adam Cook and bench players Darby Medlyn and Jarrett Subloo will play their first NRL games.
The Raiders can leapfrog the Eels for fourth spot if they beat the Sharks by enough to overcome an 18-point difference in for-and-against, provided Parramatta does not beat the Tigers on Saturday.
The Sharks will play Wade Graham in the halves but won’t have Josh Dugan and Sione Katoa as they manage minor niggles.
Both trained on Tuesday and will be fine for the finals.
Isaac Liu, Lindsay Collins and Joey Manu will not play for the Sydney Roosters against South Sydney, but James Tedesco, Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend and Siosiua Taukeiaho have all been named to return.
First-placed Penrith will be without Dylan Edwards, Stephen Crichton and Viliame Kikau for its match with Canterbury.
Jetta – who has been targeted with racist trolling on social media this year, along with fellow Indigenous AFL players including Eddie Betts and Harley Bennell – said strong action to stop such attacks was “the next step in the journey to reconciliation”.
“We’ve pushed for a lot of things, Aboriginal people, but now it’s time for the Attorney-General to lead the country in something that can … show what is happening right now in Australia is not on, and there’s going to be accountability,” Jetta said.
He said Indigenous players had decided to take on racism this year, prompted in part by feeling more could have been done to combat abuse towards former Swans star Adam Goodes.
“We felt as players that we didn’t do enough and we weren’t going to let that happen again. And whoever it was, how little or how big the slur was on social media, we were going to call it out, stand united as an Indigenous playing group and ask for support from our clubs, teammates and the football community,” he said.
The letter, initiated by AFL media commentator and teacher Shelley Ware, says: “In recent months, numerous athletes and personalities have been subjected to sustained racist attacks online, including through racist and demeaning language and images.
“As Aboriginal people, people of colour and allies, we are deeply concerned about the ongoing scourge of racism in Australia. Many of us have been personally targeted in harmful and repeated racist cyber attacks … we believe that there is a need for urgent, further action.”
Richmond Football Club CEO Brendon Gale – a signatory to the letter along with Carlton boss Cain Liddle, Hawthorn CEO Justin Reeves and Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy – said racism towards Indigenous players had become “more notable” this year.
“It [racism] is prevalent. I don’t know why … maybe it’s being called out more as well,” Mr Gale said.
The letter was “about a national conversation about law reform and to shine a light on [racism]”, he said. “I’m proud of putting my name there because [racism] is becoming more notable and we want to continue to create an environment where everyone feels included.”
Former rugby league player Joe Williams said it was vital more was done to combat online racism because it was inflicting trauma that could create long-term harm to the wellbeing of those targeted.
“Racism triggers trauma, it doesn’t just impact on us at an emotional level. There is loads of research showing trauma can be deeply embedded and have long-term effects on our physiological health,” he said.
“If the government is serious about closing the gap when it comes to [Indigenous] health outcomes and life expectancy, then getting tougher on stuff like [racism online] should be one of those outcomes.”
Ms Ware, whose Instagram page was hit with organised racist attacks after she defended Betts, Chad Wingard and Jetta against abuse, said young Indigenous people were seeing increasing racism, and it was vital for their health to eradicate it.
“I think it’s escalating. People are having a go at [Indigenous] kids, players’ children, saying really vile things about them, and this is not being recognised by social media platforms,” she said.
Former Western Bulldogs vice-president Ms Alberti said she supported the campaign to increase accountability for racist trolling, because “it’s not on and we all need to call it out when we see it”.
“No matter our race, religion, gender, or even what football team we barrack for, we need to treat one another with respect in every forum.”
The Attorney-General said on Wednesday that the government condemned all forms of racism, an online safety act was in development to combat abuse and “there is a growing sense that online behaviour must have the same stringent rules applied to it as exists outside the internet”.
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The women’s draw has also been hit hard, with two more players from the top 10 joining Barty on the sidelines over the weekend.
World number five Elina Svitolina — who made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year — and seventh-ranked Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens are also gone.
Popyrin’s withdrawal means 2012 US champion Andy Murray, who had been granted a wild card at the tournament, will now move into the main draw.
The French Open, traditionally the second major of the year, starts on September 27, meaning anyone who wanted to play both would only have a two-week turnaround from hard court to clay if they reached the final.
Toby Greene has reignited GWS’s hunt for a maiden AFL premiership, booting five goals to deliver the Giants a 12-point win over Richmond in a much closer contest than last year’s grand final.
Toby Greene kicked a goal in every quarter against Richmond
The Giants had lost four of their last six matches heading into the Tigers clash
Both sides paid respect to former Richmond player Shane Tuck, who died on Monday aged 38
GWS, desperate to make a statement after slipping to 13th on the ladder, were far from faultless but dug deep to prevail 9.8 (62) to 6.14 (50) at Giants Stadium in Sydney.
Greene, who was returning from a sore shin, kicked at least goal in every quarter to be best on ground.
Last year’s Norm Smith medallist Dustin Martin ignited a third-quarter comeback by the Tigers with two quick goals, while Shai Bolton threatened to snatch victory for the visitors in a frantic final quarter.
But it was Greene who fittingly delivered the sealer for GWS with just over five minutes remaining in the contest, crumbing what proved to be the only goal in the fourth term.
Lachie Whitfield, who was shifted off the wing and unleashed as a rebounding defender, and Josh Kelly were also important for the hosts.
But Greene and his fellow forwards showed why some pundits feel they can challenge for a flag in 2020.
Momentum shifted frequently and violently in this grand final re-match, with the third quarter proving a perfect snapshot of the topsy-turvy tussle.
The Giants kicked away to a 27-point lead when Greene out-bodied Dylan Grimes, marked a rainmaker and kicked the resultant goal, which was his fourth for the night.
The Tigers responded with three goals in nine minutes, including a gift for Martin when Heath Shaw put the ball out on the full, to trim the Giants’ buffer to eight points at three-quarter time.
Bolton, youngster Jake Aarts and key forward Tom Lynch then missed opportunities for Richmond before Greene stepped up to ice the match
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick will take heart from the fact he will recall hamstrung captain Trent Cotchin for Wednesday’s clash with Western Bulldogs and ideally six other premiership players before the finals.
West Coast overcame the Fremantle Dockers and 30,000 opposing fans to claim the 51st Western Derby with a 30-point win at Perth Stadium.
Both teams were back home after their time in Queensland hub — but it was the Eagles who took the bragging rights for a 10th straight meeting, winning 9.8 (62) to 5.2 (32) to put them back in the top eight.
In front of the biggest attendance at an Australian sporting event since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Coast and Fremantle played in front of a crowd almost entirely made up of Dockers supporters.
West Coast forward Josh Kennedy marked his 250th AFL game with a best-on-ground performance to win the Glendinning-Allan Medal.
The Eagles star — like many key forwards — had struggled to start the 2020 season, averaging just over a goal a game in the first six rounds.
But he was at the centre of proceedings from early on against the Dockers.
He opened the scoring with a trademark grab and goal inside forward 50, but the Dockers then rebounded to have a strong first quarter.
Forward Matt Taberner was giving the Eagles defenders headaches.
He kicked two early goals, but should have had another — Brett Bewley hit him on the chest with a 60m pass in the goalsquare.
Rather than go back and kick it, Taberner played on, only to be run down by Tom Cole. The Eagles bagged a late goal from Jack Darling to lead by two points at quarter-time.
One of the first-half highlights for the crowd came at the start of the second term.
The Dockers kicked inside 50, and first-gamer Michael Frederick used his pace to burst onto the ball which went out the back of the West Coast defence.
He clipped the ball home to put the home side ahead, drawing a huge roar.
But that was as good as it got for the Dockers, as the Eagles began to take control.
Late in the first half, they finally broke free after setting up some one-on-one contests in their forward line — in particular, two goals in a minute from Kennedy and Jarrod Cameron helped West Coast to a 15-point lead at the main break.
Fremantle appeared to run out of ideas in the third term, focusing on trying to stem the flow of goals from the opposition.
This came at the cost of their own scoring, with the Dockers failing to kick a point. It was a 30-point break at three quarter-time, with the Eagles dominating across the board.
Inside 50s, clearances, contested and uncontested possessions, overall marks and contested marks — West Coast was winning it all.
The Dockers needed everything to go right in the final quarter, and they got the opener from Rory Lobb after a mark near the goalsquare.
This sparked Fremantle up. The tackles got fiercer, the kicks were more direct, the crowd’s roars got louder.
The Dockers took two more big marks inside 50 in quick succession, but Lobb pulled his kick to the left, and Taberner missed everything to hurt the team’s chances.
Almost inevitably, the ball went down the other end and Kennedy delivered his fourth of the match to all but seal the win.
The victory marks West Coast’s 10th consecutive derby win, continuing a drought for the Dockers — their last win over their rivals was in round three, 2015.
Both sides were missing their captains, with late West Coast withdrawal Luke Shuey joining injured Fremantle skipper Nat Fyfe on the sidelines.
The victory puts West Coast into seventh spot, while Fremantle remains in 15th spot.
With both teams set for an extended stint back in Perth, the Eagles in particular will have a chance to move up the ladder in coming weeks.