State community award winners announced

A Normanton man who helped put rugby league back on the map in remote communities, and a woman who has devoted more than a decade of service to her Brisbane club, are among those being recognised by the Queensland Rugby League.

QRL managing director Robert Moore, announcing the three state winners of the prestigious NRL Community Awards, praised the efforts of all volunteers throughout the state.

Moore said he was particularly impressed by below 2019 award recipients, whose contribution to the game will be formally celebrated at the QRL Awards Dinner on September 27 at Brisbane City Hall.

  • Volunteer of the Year – Bevan Owens (Normanton Stingers)
  • Women in League Award – Sharon Hickey (Pine Central Holy Spirit RLFC)
  • Club of the Year – Atherton Roosters (Cairns District Rugby League) 

Moore delivered the good news to each of the winners before the QRL Digital team headed to their respective communities to capture their amazing stories; the videos will be published weekly in the lead up to the QRL Awards Dinner.

“These are the calls you really enjoying making because you immediately gain a sense of what the game means to them,” Moore said.

“Rugby league is about inclusiveness and selflessness and the winners this year, along with so many of the other nominees around the state, are the real heroes of our game.

“It is an honour to be part of a wider rugby league family that is always there to help each other through the challenging times and the good times.”

Bevan Owens is a passionate volunteer whose dedication and vision has been instrumental in rugby league’s resurgence in the Gulf.

Owens is Normanton Stingers’ club president and is normally the first at the ground on game day and the last to leave in the early hours, after the post-game ‘disco’ at all home games and cluster days.  

Thanks to the commitment of Owens and his dedicated team, the Stingers are on the up and the game in the wider region is beginning to flourish once more.

Through Owens’ leadership, key rugby league stakeholders and the communities of Doomadgee, Burketown, Mornington Island and Kowanyama came together to establish the Gulf Community Rugby League Cluster. With the Stingers leading the way, coordinated courses for coaches, referees and sports trainers took place, along with the upskilling of community volunteers.

It was not an easy process given the cultural sensitives between communities and the extensive travel required to get teams on the field, but Owens and his team made it happen.

In the South East, Sharon Hickey is a highly respected community leader whose achievements with Pine Central Holy Spirit have not gone unnoticed.  

In addition to managing team logistics with the open women’s and senior men’s teams, Hickey leads fundraising and sponsorship initiatives across the club. 

Prior to this role, Hickey was club president and was instrumental in driving the growth in the female game across the club with the introduction of the first open women’s team in 19 years and junior girls’ teams.

Hickey is also a director of Rugby League Brisbane, the largest community league in Queensland with more than 15,000 registered participants. In recent years, she has been a true advocate for the female game, providing the foundations for many of the club’s emerging juniors to progress into the club’s open women's team.

Like Pine Central Holy Spirit, the Atherton Roosters are blessed with strong leadership - a key factor behind their accolade as the 2019 Club of the Year. 

Nestled in one of the most picturesque regional areas of North Queensland, the Atherton Roosters celebrated 100 years in 2018 with generations of ‘Tablelanders’ having proudly worn the red and blue.

The inclusion of junior and female matches on game days, a strong commitment to player wellbeing, a good group of volunteers and a firm adherence to the Code of Conduct has fostered a "family friendly" environment at the club. Importantly, game days have been promoted as community events, with strong crowds always in attendance.

The club also educates about many issues including domestic and family violence; players from all grades attended and supported the 2019 Domestic and Family Violence Candle Lighting Ceremony to support those affected by domestic violence.

The Roosters’ Ladies NRL Touch Team are active fundraisers, and from an Easter Hamper Raffle, raised an impressive sum of money which was donated to the Atherton Midwifes and Mother's Alliance.

Most recently, the club has supported the Beanies for Brain Cancer initiative and have also commenced the State of Mind program.