A Boy Egged A Racist Politician After Christchurch. A Year On, Their Lives Have Completely Changed.
Will Connolly has tried to use his unexpected fame for good. Fraser Anning is nowhere to be seen.
Before he cracked an egg on the head of former Australian senator Fraser Anning, Will Connolly was already known as Egg Boy. He was given the nickname because of the smelly boiled eggs he’d bring to school every day.
He didn’t expect that the whole world would one day know him by that name.
On March 15, 2019 Australian man Brenton Tarrant opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 and injuring 49. It was the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand history.
As tributes began to flow from world leaders through the afternoon, the far-right Anning tweeted: “Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim Immigration and violence?”
The racist sentiment wasn’t out of character. Anning’s maiden speech called for a public vote on limiting immigration as a “final solution” and his Facebook page had been banned for sharing an anti-Muslim video.
That afternoon, Connolly — then a 17-year-old schoolboy living in Melbourne — saw part of the Christchurch shooting livestream. A few hours later, he read Anning’s comment and shared it on Facebook with the caption “I’d like to be face to face with this muppet”.
Later, someone sent him a link to a Melbourne rally Anning was attending the next day. Connolly remembers turning to a friend and saying “let’s go egg him”.
He had never egged anybody before, but felt confident in his decision.
“It was to shame [Anning], it’s to show disapproval,” Connolly told BuzzFeed News. “I used to play high level baseball, I could have hit him on the head with a baseball if I wanted to hurt him. I used an egg because it’s embarrassing.”
He asked his mates to come and back him up at the rally, but most said no. He finally convinced two friends to come, but when the day came, they were running late. So Connolly set off by himself for Anning’s rally on his bike, buying a carton of eggs on the way.
Connolly doesn’t remember much from the egging itself because it went by so fast, and so dramatically. But the incident was caught from almost every angle by cameras filming Anning’s controversial press conference.
It went like this: Connolly was standing behind Anning as he was speaking. He pulled out his phone, aimed it in front of him, and then smacked an egg into Anning’s smooth dome. Yolk and bits of shell flew everywhere. Anning turned, struck Connolly in the face, paused briefly, and struck him again. Other people crashed into the melee, coming between the senator and the teen. Full grown men piled on Connolly, who eventually lay motionless. Then he was escorted out by police.
The only perspective we never saw was Connolly's point of view. He told BuzzFeed News he doesn’t have the footage, that it was somehow deleted as Anning’s associates were trying to wrestle his phone from his hands.
The egging went hugely viral. Footage of the incident shared on social media was viewed millions of times. There were more than 1,300 news articles written about him in March 2019 alone, including coverage from outlets like the New York Times, Al Jazeera and, of course, BuzzFeed. Even grieving young Muslims in Christchurch watched the footage, grateful for a fraction of levity.
Connolly shot to stardom. His Instagram account grew to have 660,000 followers. International music artists promised him VIP treatment at their concerts. Murals were painted of him. There was even an Egg Boy action figure.
Anning also saw an initial spike in attention, but things soon took a turn for the worse. Despite his brief international notoriety, not a single one of the 70 candidates who were running for Anning’s new political party — the Fraser Anning Conservative National Party — was successful at the Australian federal election two months later in May 2019.
The party’s Facebook page has only posted once in the last six months. Its website doesn’t work anymore. Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party remains registered, but in terms of any public presence or influence, it is for all intents and purposes dead.
Anning lost his own Senate position after receiving only 6,614 votes at the election. He’s failed to appear in court where he’s facing bankruptcy proceedings. A former staff member, Leon Ashby, told BuzzFeed News that Anning is currently in the United States. Anning’s personal Facebook profile lists his location as Venezuela — which, rather than his actual location, is likely a reference to the fact Venezuela has become an anti-socialist meme among right-wing politicians.
Anning didn’t respond to emails or messages to his Facebook account.
His “Fraser Anning — Former Senator” Facebook page still regularly posts, but interactions on his posts have plummeted since his unsuccessful election tilt, and he’s been losing followers since the middle of 2019.
Fears that Anning would somehow capitalise on the “publicity and sympathy the egging gave him” have turned out to be unfounded. His popularity — online and off — has waned.
His defining moment as a public figure is being egged by Connolly. More news articles about Anning include the word “egg” than not, and it’s mentioned in three of every four articles about Anning published since mid-2019, according to media analytics company Muck Rack. The most popular web, Facebook and YouTube content about Anning are about the egging, according to content analysis tool BuzzSumo (no relation to BuzzFeed).
Connolly has no regrets over the egging itself: “One hundred percent I’d do it again. No-one ever stands up to these politicians. [The egging] made an impact, and not many people can say that.”
He does regret, though, saying in a Snapchat video recorded after the event, “don’t egg politicians, you get tackled by bogans, I learnt the hard way”. Connolly said he didn’t intend to be demeaning to bogans, which is Australian slang for “redneck”.
Connolly never imagined the egging would go as wildly viral as it did. When he went to the hospital after the pile-on, a nurse came in and asked him what he was in for. “I pointed above her head. The video of the egging was playing on Channel 7 already,” he said.
He struggled with the sudden, extreme fame at first. While most people were supportive — except for a death threat called into his school — he felt like he was trapped between the public persona of Egg Boy, and his own sense of self. Connolly also said he was uneasy about the focus being on him rather than the victims of the Christchurch shooting.
“I had everything a 17-year-old would want. Fame, Instagram followers, girls coming up to me and yet I had the biggest hole inside of me,” he said.
He doesn’t want to be defined by the egging, or known as Egg Boy forever. Connolly said he’s been able to reconcile the two personas by deciding to use his fame for good.
Unlike Anning, Connolly has been able to capitalise on his elevated public profile to help the causes he believes in. On top of $100,000 raised for the victims of the Christchurch shooting and their families, he’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for mental health support for Australia’s bushfire victims and Yemeni Muslims in famine. He’s an ambassador for the mental health not-for-profit Dancing With The Black Dog Foundation and he wants to become a public speaker to help inspire others. He visited Sydney and Christchurch over the weekend to commemorate the attack.
“I’ve got gifted with this platform, it was a real opportunity. It’s a waste if I don’t do good with it,” he said.
Anning doesn’t appear to have forgotten about the egging. Connolly said that the former politician blocked him on Instagram — but only recently.
And what would Connolly say if he ran into the former senator in the street?
“I’ve moved onto bigger and better things and that’s all in the past,” he said.