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George 'Terry' Abednego from Thursday Island has claimed this year’s National Volunteer of the Year award in a fantastic achievement.

A host of rugby league volunteers were celebrated today at the 10th annual NRL Community Awards, acknowledging some of the game's many unassuming heroes and their tireless community work.

The awards well held in Sydney, with nominees and winners flying in from as far as Thursday Island and Gove to be part of the ceremony, before taking in all the action and excitement live tomorrow at the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership grand final as guests of the NRL.

Australian Rugby League Commissioner Wayne Pearce welcomed the volunteers and grassroots club members to the awards, which were also attended by NRL Ken Stephen Medal nominees, including the 2016 Ken Stephen Medal winner, Joel Thompson.

Winners across the six categories were:

National Volunteer of the Year: Terry Abednego from Thursday Island, Queensland
Grassroots Club of the Year: Gunning Roos from Gunning, New South Wales
National Teacher of the Year: Andrew Johnson from Wallsend, New South Wales
Young Person of the Year: Shakeela Williams from Nowra, New South Wales
Women in League achievement award: Kiowa Goodwin from Mount Gambier, South Australia
NRL Club Community Program of the Year: Beyond the Broncos, Brisbane Broncos

NRL General Manager of Community, Ellen Beale, said the awards were an important occasion in grand final week to pay tribute to volunteers in the game, right across the country.

"Our game thrives, thanks to the generous support, time and effort that thousands make across Australia week in, week out, so that people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities have an opportunity to play and participate in a form of rugby league," Ms Beale said.

"I, like many others connected with rugby league, am inspired by the many volunteers and their stories as they continue to ensure the success of the game for generations to come."

2016 NRL Community Awards: award descriptions, winners and background information

National Volunteer of the Year: presented by the NRL and Carbine Club of NSW

Presented to a volunteer that has provided exceptional service to the game and made a notable and measurable difference in their community through rugby league while demonstrating the NRL values of excellence, courage, inclusiveness and team work.

Winner: Terry Abednego from Thursday Island, Queensland

Background: Rugby league in the Torres Strait is closely linked with the unique culture of the people and it evokes those positive feelings of pride in community, belief in yourself and captures the hearts and minds of those that play and support the game. 

When it comes to rugby league in the Torres Strait, there is one man that is the backbone, the heart and the soul. Terry Abednego is the driving force that works tirelessly to create opportunities for the people of Thursday Island and the outer Islands to participate in the game of rugby league. 

Terry is the President of the Zenadth Kes Rugby League which is five team competition, based on Thursday Island. 

The competition consists of players from all over the islands of the Torres Strait such as Badu, Mobiag, Iama, and dinghies full of league players can be seen arriving on the beach starting from Friday evening through to Saturday mornings in readiness for the game. 

Terry makes sure that all compliance issues with registrations etc is adhered to and works closely with the NRL and QRL to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Terry is one of only two senior club coaches in far North Queensland and mentors and assists other senior coaches in the region. 

Terry's ability to be able to source funding and sponsorship is a credit to him and the game is so much better off for his contribution. He is an inspiring leader for the area and committed to all forms of the game whether it be juniors, women's or seniors.

Grassroots Club of the Year: presented by Telstra

Presented to a Rugby League Club that has fostered participation and enjoyment at all levels of the game and has been an integral part of the local community, displaying innovation in administration.

Winner: Gunning Roos from Gunning, New South Wales

National Teacher of the Year: presented by ACCOR Hotels

Presented to a teacher who has demonstrated exceptional support of rugby league through the provision of opportunities for students to be involved in both practical rugby league activities within their school or district and engaging students by integrating NRL education programs in the classroom.

Winner: Andrew Johnson from Wallsend, New South Wales

Young Person of the Year (new award in 2016): presented by the NRL Community Department

Presented to a young adult (aged 13 – 18) who has participated in an NRL community program and has made a positive contributing to their community through rugby league – either through encouraging others to participate in rugby league or by using rugby league as a vehicle to raise awareness to social and societal issues.

Winner: Shakeela Williams from Nowra, New South Wales

Women in League Achievement Award: presented by Harvey Norman

Presented to a woman who been an outstanding advocate for the advancement and opportunity of women in rugby league and has made a significant contribution to the game of rugby league.

Winner: Kiowa Goodwin from Mount Gambier, South Australia

NRL Club Community Program of the Year: presented by AAMI

Presented to an NRL club that recognises, celebrates and rewards excellent and innovative community programs that significantly improve outcomes for their community and foster a culture of learning and support.

Winner: Brisbane Broncos – Beyond the Broncos program

Community Team of the Year (new acknowledgement in 2016): recognising the efforts of all Ken Stephen Medal nominees for their dedication and time off the field to support and participate in multiple community projects to make a positive change.

2016 NRL Community Team of the Year:

Brisbane Broncos: Darius Boyd
Canberra Raiders: Sia Soliola
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: Moses Mbye
Cronulla Sharks: Paul Gallen
Gold Coast Titans: Will Zillman
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles: Brenton Lawrence
Melbourne Storm: Nelson Asofa Solomona
Newcastle Knights: Trent Hodkinson
New Zealand Warriors: James Gavet
North Queensland Cowboys: John Asiata
Parramatta Eels: Tim Mannah
Penrith Panthers: Trent Merrin
St George-Illawarra Dragons: Joel Thompson (2016 Ken Stephen Medallist)
Sydney Roosters: Kane Evans
Wests Tigers: Dene Halatau

Find out more the backgrounds of all the other 2016 winners here via

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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