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Never work with children or animals, they say, but Maroons forward Matt Gillett has been ignoring that advice and achieving great things.

The Broncos second-row forward is having a career-best year, starting for Australia and now Queensland in what has been his most consistent season to date.

A lot of the 27-year-old's excellent form in the past couple of seasons can be put down to his work off the field, with his community work in the past 18 months earning him a nomination for the 2015 Ken Stephen Medal.

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The medal recognises those in the NRL who not only achieve on the field, but also contribute to community projects off the field.

Titans front-rower Luke Douglas won the award, but Gillett won the hearts of the hundreds of kids he helps in the Falcons Footy for Children of Different Abilities program.

Based on the Sunshine Coast, the program aims to integrate children with different abilities – such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and other special needs – into the rugby league community, offering them a safe place to play the game.

Gillett says helping those with disabilities is a great way to give back to the community.

"There are a lot of different disabilities that we work with. Every home game we do a bit of a clinic up there for about an hour out on the field. Some of the Sunshine Coast Falcons get involved as well," Gillett said. 

"The kids have a bit of a run around and play a bit of footy. Obviously some can't get as involved as others but it's just great to get up there and support all of their causes.

"Kerrod Walters was an ambassador there and I've played a lot of footy on the Sunshine Coast. He approached me to come on board and I didn't have to think twice.

"Obviously footy is pretty busy during the year but I just try and help out when I can. I've been up there a fair few times this year and I just try and get up there when I can.

"It's great being able to put smiles on their faces and there are a lot of characters so it's really good."

This isn't the only work Gillett does away from football, with the Brisbane star recently becoming an ambassador for the RSPCA.

His role involves helping RSPCA animals find homes, as well as supporting the cause all year round.

Gillett is a lover of animals after having grown up with dogs and he now owns two huskies.

"Again, I just wanted to help out and any little bit I can do is worth it, especially because it's such a great cause. I've always loved pets so it's pretty special to be a part of it and help out."

But perhaps the No.1 reason for Gillett's stellar season so far in 2016 is his family.

He says as much as he loves helping the community, nothing beats coming home to his daughter, Harper, and wife, Skye.

"Having something else to focus on helps my football. I love giving back to the community and it takes the focus off being a footballer," he said.

"It helps coming home to a young family of my own, especially when you have those bad games and things aren't going too well on the field.

"Coming home to your daughter and your family is great, they don't know any different so it's always a bit of fun with them."

Second image credit: Level Eleven Photography.

*This article first appeared on