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The NRL last week announced the finalists for this year’s NRL Community and Player Education Awards.

Now in its ninth year, the awards recognise rugby league's unsung heroes for the tireless work they do to support the game they love.

From volunteer coaches and teachers, to players at first-grade level, the awards pause to honour, reflect and congratulate those who make a positive difference for many in their community.

This year, the award categories have been expanded to encompass player education, recognising players achieving academic excellence and commitment to furthering their careers off the field.

“This year’s finalists are representative of what Rugby League is all about,” said Adam Check, NRL Head of community.

“These finalists are not looking for accolades – such is their humility, they are nominated by their peers who realise they are the heart and soul of their community and deserving of recognition.”

Player education categories presented on the evening will include NRL and National Youth Competition (NYC) Academic Team’s of the Year, NYC Apprentice of the Year Award, NRL Pasifika Academic Excellence and NRL Indigenous Academic Excellence.

“These awards are our chance to recognise and celebrate those players who have demonstrated a long term and genuine commitment to their studies and careers beyond the football field,” Paul Heptonstall, NRL Senior Welfare and Education Manager said.

“Throughout 2015, four in five NRL and NYC players were engaged in further education or workplace training, with more than 200 NRL players studying at one of 30 universities across Australia and New Zealand. This is in addition to the 150 players undertaking an apprenticeship and the 350 players completing a certificate at a diploma level.”

The NRL Community and Player Education Awards will be held at Sheraton on the Park in Sydney on Friday, October 2 and will be live streamed online via from 7pm.

NRL Community and Player Education Awards – Categories and Finalists

National Volunteer of the Year, presented by Holden

Celebrates the efforts and outstanding community contributions of a volunteer who selflessly devotes their time to the growth, coordination and promotion of Rugby League.


o   Chris Kirkland, Collarenebri, Country Rugby League

o   Steven Dickinson, Kalkie, Queensland Rugby League

o   Brendan Rosebottom, Macquarie Fields, New South Wales Rugby League

o   Terrie Simms, Dry Creek, South Australian Rugby League

o   Cecilia Eichler (Touch Football), Portland Victoria, Touch Football Australia

Grassroots Club of the Year, presented by Telstra

Presented to a club that has developed participation and enjoyment at all levels of Rugby League, has shown innovation in administration and has become an integral part of their community.


o   Bargo Bunnies, Bargo, Country Rugby League

o   Rockhampton Tigers, Red Hill, Queensland Rugby League

o   Campbelltown City Kangaroos, Campbelltown, New South Wales Rugby League

o   Ellenbrook Rabbitohs, Ellenbrook, Western Australian Rugby League

National Teacher of the Year, presented by ACCOR Hotels

Awarded in honour of the extraordinary contributions made by a teacher who has championed Rugby League within their school and community and integrated league related teaching material into their program.

Finalists include:

o   Helen Cooper, Wagga Wagga, Country Rugby League

o   Laurie Shepherd, Mackay, Queensland Rugby League

o   Aleksander (Sasha) Juric, Clovelly, New South Wales Rugby League

o   David Graham, Palmerston, Northern Territory Rugby League

NRL Club Community Program of the Year, presented by AAMI

Recognises a NRL Club that has positively impacted the broader community by delivering exceptional health, education and welfare programs across Australia and New Zealand.

Finalists include:

o   Brisbane Broncos – Charity Partner Program

o   North Queensland Cowboys – Try Time!

o   Parramatta Eels – Eels Educate

o   St George Illawarra Dragons – SCORE Dragons

o   Manly Warringah Sea Eagles – Read with an Eagle

o   Sydney Roosters – Roosters Against Racism

o   South Sydney Rabbitohs – Souths Cares Indigenous Oral Health Program

o   Melbourne Storm – Respectful Relationships, Mentoring & Be the Hero

o   Gold Coast Titans – Down Syndrome Association, More Alike than Different

NRL and National Youth Competition Academic Teams of the Year

Awarded to players who are a positive influence within their club and have demonstrated a long-term and genuine commitment to educational pursuits. The NRL and NYC Academic Teams of the Year acknowledges the significant role further education and workplace training plays across the game, and consists of players currently engaged in university studies, trades and other vocational training. Teams to be announced the night of the awards.

NRL Indigenous Academic Excellence, presented by Harvey Norman

Recognises an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander NRL player who strives for excellence in both their playing career and in furthering their education, acting as a role model for other young Indigenous Australians. Winners will be announced the night of the awards.

Pasifika Academic Excellence, presented by MGA Insurance Brokers

Recognises NRL players who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to Rugby League, their education and Pasifika outreach. Winners will be announced the night of the awards.

NYC Apprentice of the Year, presented by HIA

Awarded to a player who is achieving excellence in their completion of an apprenticeship, whilst simultaneously acting as a positive force as a player and member of the community. The winner will be announced the night of the awards.