Jemma receives her award from James Montgomery, CEO of AFL SportsReady.

For the Queensland Rugby League’s Jemma Whitnall, passion and work ethic are two traits that go hand in hand.

They are qualities which led to Jemma becoming the toast of the QRL office last week when she was announced as the recipient of the AFL SportsReady Queensland Trainee of the Year.

“I was definitely surprised because everyone in that room deserved it,” said Jemma, one of 11 nominees from 72 graduates.

“Each person who received the certificate on the night has been doing excellent things in their own industry and they’re all young and enthusiastic.

“I think they were just looking for someone who went above and beyond the traineeship and engaged with their entire organisation.”

Jemma, 20, certainly did all of that and more, as her managers will attest.

“She started off handling roles that were far beyond her years,” said QRL Competitions Manager Dave Maiden, who jumped at the opportunity to nominate her for the prestigious Trainee award.

“Jemma has a phenomenal work ethic to start with, and a real passion for the game.”

As the QRL’s Database and Innovation Officer, Jemma’s roles include the management of QRL Live and the National Registration Database.

Along with providing regular education and support for Queensland’s Major Competition clubs in these areas, Jemma works on numerous projects with the QRL’s Head of Football Neil Wharton, whose department is continually striving for ‘excellence’ in line with the game’s core values.

Jemma, a born and bred Cairns girl who moved to Brisbane in 2015, is proud of her development over the past 12 months.

“When I started, I was a 19-year-old with no life experience at all,” she said.

“Coming into the role, ‘Maido’ challenged me straight away. He encouraged me to show initiative and get the job done.

“When tasks are handed to me, my outlook has always been to ask questions where necessary and go and get on with it.

“That’s how you get by in life … getting it done.”

Maiden is still amazed at how quickly Jemma adapted to the tasks and challenges that came her way in the early stages of her traineeship.

“For a trainee, you’re essentially learning the ropes and starting from scratch,” Maiden said.

“But Jemma started at the same time as the introduction of QRL Live (our new online match centre), and she had a real aptitude for it from the word go.

“I let her run with it and focus on how we can improve it, from the communication side of things, right through to liaising with the ground managers.”

“She’s brought a real youthful enthusiasm, as well as sense of cheekiness.”

That “cheeky” and competitive side is now coming out on the field as well, with Jemma signing up to play her first season of rugby league with the newly-formed Easts Tigers women’s team.

“Rugby league has always been a part of me growing up,” the passionate Canterbury Bulldogs fan said.

“That’s why it probably took me a while to actually open up when I first started at the QRL because I thought I was in a day dream.”