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QUEENSLANDERS were amongst the honourees at the NRL’s One Community Awards last night with the Sunset Tigers and teacher Jon Keal of Tullawong State High School both coming home with awards.

The Tigers club from Mt Isa were named the NRL One Community Grassroots Club of the Year while Keal claimed the National Teacher of the Year award.

Read the full NRL Media release about the night with the full list of winners and their stories below:

CANTERBURY Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson was awarded the coveted Ken Stephen Medal for his outstanding service to the community at the 2014 NRL One Community Awards.

Hodkinson, 25, took out the prestigious award at a special ceremony held at CarriageWorks in Sydney, intensifying the excitement around the NRL Telstra Premiership final series.

2014 was Hodkinson’s year both on and off field thanks to his exceptional playing performance and his tireless work within the greater community.

As an ambassador for the RSPCA, Hodkinson was a key figure in raising awareness and funding for the Million Paws Walk initiative as well as continuing his altruism on field by writing the name of a sick or disadvantaged child on his kicking tee every game.

Hodkinson also formed a special bond with seven year-old Rebecca Adouni, supporting her and her family as Rebecca went through a period of bullying at school. His friendship with the young Bulldogs fan has helped her confidence turn around and become happy and comfortable in her own skin.

“It’s a massive achievement to be in a room with a lot of people who do such great work, it’s an honour,” said Hodkinson of his win.

“There are so many players out there who do such great jobs in their own communities and I feel very privileged to have this award.”

Hodkinson was one of eight award-winners announced at the One Community Awards ceremony. The annual event recognises the unsung heroes that dedicate their time to promoting the strong values of the game within the community.

More than 260 guests, including former and current players, NRL club officials, award nominees, sponsors and guests attended the inspiring ceremony to celebrate the people that make the game happen on a grassroots level.

NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith said the One Community Awards were the opportunity to celebrate and thank those people who are the heart-and-soul of the game.

“This is our opportunity to acknowledge the countless hours that volunteers, officials, game administrators and elite players dedicate to the game and their communities throughout the year,” Mr Smith said.

“On behalf of all of the NRL, I’d like to congratulate Trent Hodkinson and all of the NRL One Community Award winners for their inspirational work.

“Every story demonstrates that through the power of the game we can change lives for the better and bring communities together.”

The Ken Stephen Medal is named after the NSWRL administrator who dedicated 28 years of service to the game.

From establishing programs to support professional athletes studying at university to dedicating hundreds of hours to children’s literacy programs and striving to stamp out bullying in schools across the country, the players nominated for the medal have all demonstrated significant achievements and dedication to community endeavours.

Alongside Hodkinson, the One Community Awards honour roll included the following award winners:

·         Holden National Volunteer of the Year: Gary Fa’afua of Bexley, NSW (NSWRL)

·         Telstra NRL One Community Grassroots Club of the Year: Sunset Tigers Junior Rugby League Football Club, Mt Isa, Queensland (QRL)

·         Harvey Norman Women in League Achievement Award: Erin Rowe of Northfield, SA (SARL)

·         ACCOR National Teacher of the Year: Jon Keal of Tullawong State High School, Queensland

The AAMI Service to Rugby League Medal recipients were:

·         Michael Covey of Beacon Hill, NSW (NSWRL)

·         Sandra Ellicot of Coffs Harbour, NSW (CRL)

·         John Moore of Dianella, WA (WARL)

The background of the winners of the 2014 One Community Awards are as follows:

Ken Stephen Medal presented by Telstra

Telstra awarded $5,000 to the winner and $5,000 to their favourite charity.

Winner: Trent Hodkinson (Canterbury Bulldogs)

An ambassador for the RSPCA and key figure in the Bulldogs Party Safe Program, Hodkinson dedicated countless hours to community-focused initiatives in 2014.

Hodkinson used his profile to raise awareness and funding for the RSPCA’s Million Paws Walk event, which promoted animal welfare. Equally focused on humanitarian efforts, Hodkinson engraves his kicking tee every game with the name of a young fan doing it tough.

Hodkinson dedicated time to visiting local schools and community groups to talk about the dangers of drug use, alcohol, sexual assault and physical assault through the Bulldogs Party Safe Program. 

During the last year, Hodkinson has formed a special bond with seven-year-old Rebecca Adouni. The friendship formed through social media and it wasn’t until later that Hodkinson learnt that Rebecca was being bullied at school.  Following the heartbreaking news, Hodkinson stepped in and played an even stronger mentor to Rebecca by attending her birthday party and showing the young girl she had a lifelong friend in him.

Finalists: Josh McGuire (Broncos), Joel Edwards (Raiders), Michael Gordon (Sharks), Ryan James (Titans), Gavin Cooper (Cowboys), Brenton Lawrence (Sea Eagles), Matt Duffie (Storm), Robbie Rochow (Knights), Manu Vatuvei (Warriors), Ben Smith (Eels), Nigel Plum (Panthers), Ben Creagh (Dragons), Anthony Minichiello (Roosters) and Dene Halatau (Tigers).

Holden National Volunteer of the Year

Holden awarded $5,000 to the winner and $5,000 to their club.

Winner: Gary Fa’afua, St George Junior Rugby League (NSWRL)

Gary has been dedicated to strengthening his community through Rugby League for the past 18 years. He is currently a Director on the Executive Board at St George JRLC and worked to establish Rugby League Samoa NSW, where he is the president of the organisation.  

Finalists: Brad and Katrina Solman, Singleton Rugby League Seniors (NSWRL); Peter Sullings, Easts Mt Gravatt Junior Rugby League Football Club (QRL); Robert Fuller, Eels Rugby League Club (SARL).

Telstra NRL One Community Grassroots Club of the Year

Telstra awarded $5,000 to the winning club.

Winner: Sunset Tigers Junior Rugby League Football Club, Mt Isa, Queensland (QRL)

The Sunset Tigers JRLFC is a cornerstone of the local community, keeping kids focused on positive pursuits. The club has no membership fees or sign up costs and children receive uniforms and transport from the club. Many of the coaches are teachers from the local school, which has resulted in the children developing a greater commitment to their studies.

Finalists: Katherine Junior Rugby League, NT (NTRL); Macarthur Saints Junior Rugby League Football Club, NSW (NSWRL); Woonona Bulli Bushrangers Junior Rugby League Football Club, NSW (CRL).

Harvey Norman Women in League Achievement

Harvey Norman awarded a $5,000 Harvey Norman Gift Card to the winner.

Winner: Erin Rowe of Northfield, SA (SARL)

Erin is a dedicated member of the South Australian Rugby League community. Currently the Club Registrar at the Woodville Panthers Rugby League Football Club, Erin also manages the senior teams. Her focus in the game has been on encouraging respect and enjoyment of the sport, dedicating much of her own time to take children on interstate tours.

Finalists: Annie Ker, Culburra, NSW (CRL); Sandra Kenny, Gayndah, Queensland (QRL); Yvonne Purtell, Penrith, NSW (NSWLRL).

ACCOR Hotels National Teacher of the Year

ACCOR Hotels awarded four nights of accommodation for two adults and two children at an ACCOR Hotel (valued at $1,400) to the winner.

Winner: Jon Keal, Tullawong State High School, Queensland

Jon has used Rugby League to create positive change in the school community by developing initiatives that target at-risk students. He uses the game as an incentive for positive behaviour across all classes and has developed inter-school competitions that are emerging as the strongest in Queensland.

Finalists: Christina Whitbread, Great Lakes College Forster Campus, NSW; Michelle Dickson, Narrabeen North Public School, NSW; Wayne Schultz, Westmeadows Primary School, VIC.

AAMI Service to Rugby League Medal

AAMI awarded $5,000 each to the three recipients.

Recipients: John Moore, Dianella, WA (WARL); Michael Covey, Beacon Hill, NSW (NSWRL); Sandra Ellicot, Coffs Harbour, NSW (CRL).

John Moore has been a force in Western Australian Rugby League since arriving in the state in 1969.  For around 40 years, John has been actively involved as a referee in junior competition matches. Now aged 71, John has received many accolades during his time in Rugby League, including an induction into the West Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame for his contributions to refereeing.

Michael Covey has spent most of his life involved in Rugby League in many incarnations – as a player, coach, volunteer, trainer and club administrator. Michael is currently Treasurer for Narraweena Hawks JRLFC and President and Treasurer for Manly RLFC, Michael believes that the sense of pride, mateship and camaraderie that comes from playing Rugby League is what the game is all about.

Sandra Ellicot has been involved in Rugby League from the age of 14, when she used to type club letters for her father. Now at 71, Sandra still has the same passion and commitment for Rugby League, acting as Secretary and Registrar for Coffs Harbour Comets JRLFC and SRLFC. She has been involved with the Coffs Harbour Comets since 1982 and has watched her three sons grow up playing Rugby League.