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Regional finalists announced for Community Awards

An overwhelming number of nominations have been received for this year's Queensland Rugby League Community Awards, recognising the hard-working people who make the greatest game of all a reality across the state.

Countless feel-good stories have been shared of the lengths people go to and commitment they make in order to help make a difference for their local club or in their area.

From spending hours mowing, line-marking and setting up game days to coaching and running water for junior league all day or sitting on a committee to keep local clubs prospering; volunteers are truly the lifeblood of rugby league... the sport wouldn't exist without their love of the game.

Announcing the regional finalists for the first three categories of this year's awards, QRL community rugby league general manager Glenn Ottaway said after assessing the large number of nominations, the judging process was extraordinarily tough.

"Our community awards are central to the formal recognition we offer the many thousands of volunteers in Queensland," Ottaway said.

"Each year the judging process becomes more difficult as we learn more about the exceptional work being done by volunteers across clubs, leagues and associations.

"The work that this year's winners have done is more than just a commitment to rugby league. They have all made a strong commitment to their community knowing the positive impact that the game has on Queensland communities.

"While it is important to offer formal recognition, all nominees are united in saying they're not involved for the recognition, they genuinely love what they do."

The state winners of the Shell V-Power Volunteer of the Year, XXXX Community Club of the Year and Harvey Norman Female Contribution Award will be announced next week.

Nominations are still open for the BHP Coach of the Year and Auswide Bank Community Program of the Year - closing Thursday, July 29.

Visit qrl.com.au/communityawards to nominate.

Shell V-Power Volunteer of the Year

The Shell V-Power Volunteer of the Year will be announced on Tuesday, July 20.

The three regional finalists are:

QRL North - Joe Pennisi

If it wasn't for Joe, Herbert River wouldn't have a women's team.

The current club president and inaugural coach has been wearing Crushers colours for more than 15 years and was proactive in holding come-and-try days and encouraging people to join the new women's team.

Joe is also the A Grade team's sports trainer, a qualified referee and volunteers at junior league assisting with refereeing, working in the canteen and mows and marks the lines at the fields each week.

Nothing is ever too hard for Joe. He just rolls up his sleeves and gets on with the job to make rugby league prosper in Ingham and surrounds.

Herbert River president Joe Pennisi.
Herbert River president Joe Pennisi.

QRL Central - Neil Redfern

Neil is one of the most valuable assets to the Northern Districts Rugby League. As local league chair, he oversees the management of the male tackle and female tag competitions and goes above and beyond for the league and every single club.

He brings a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience to the game and its community. He is not only the backbone of the Northern Districts, but he is also the heart and soul f it.

Week-in, week-out, Neil goes above and beyond assisting the clubs by organising live scoring whilst running the sidelines each week taking photos, not to mention what he does after the games are finished for the weekend.

Neil has the ability to unite all the clubs in the league to think not only about their club and agenda, but what the positive direction is for the game, league and local community.

QRL South East - Nathan Ortiz

Involved for for more than eight years, Nathan is the current president of the Burpengary Jets after starting at the club as a LeagueSafe and is turning the spirit and attendance around.

He can be seen setting up the fields for training and game days, helping multiple age groups train when their coaches can't attend, cheering on all the games before packing up when each training and game day is over - this is all between juggling life with his wife Mel and two boys as well.

He works full-time outside of rugby league, but his passion for the club, the sport and helping kids grow is where his heart shines and his whole family are committed to helping him achieve change at the club he loves.

XXXX Club of the Year

The XXXX Club of the Year will be announced on Wednesday, July 21. 

The three regional finalists are:

QRL North - Herbert River Crushers

The Crushers is an integral part of the Herbert River community, not only as the local footy team, but they also support many of the region's events with their volunteer base, including the annual show and local Tasman Park festival.

Fielding a men's and women's team in the Townsville and District competition, the club hosts a dinner each Thursday night after training to make sure everyone bonds together - including both teams together to provide an environment to allow conversations among one another about how life outside of footy is going.

The common goal for the club is to have fun at the end of the day. Success on the field may seem important, however the Crushers believe their purpose isn't to solely focus on winning, but rather creating a family atmosphere to give players a sense of belonging.

QRL Central - Barcaldine Sandgoannas

Barcaldine has supported the Central West community for many years, providing the opportunity for junior and senior players to participate in the greatest game of all.

The integration between juniors and seniors in the small community town situated 600 kilometres west of Rockhampton is a true success story, joining forces to support each other in setting up the fields, working in the canteen and bar and making sure every game day is possible.

The junior club have gone the extra mile to ensure players over the age of 13 can continue playing the game they love. With an insufficient number of players to have a standalone under 13, 15 or 17 competition in the Central West, the Sandgoannas have got together and organised to join forces with teams in the Central Highlands; parents making the 600 kilometre plus journey each week to keep the rugby league flame burning.

The senior club also support their local community through fundraisers each year; most notably, their Ladies Day which celebrates Women in League and raises money for local charities. This year, more than $20,000 was raised for Western Breast and Jenny Locke Group - helping families who need assistance with travelling for medical treatment and other areas of concern in financial hard times.

Barcaldine juniors love their footy.
Barcaldine juniors love their footy.

QRL South East - Rochedale Tigers

Located 20 kilometres from Brisbane's CBD, the Rochedale Tigers Junior Rugby League club is a community club who have focused on creating a great, positive environment for their participants on game days with a zero tolerance for bad behaviour.

Despite last year being tough due to the COVID-19 disruption, the club reduced its fees and took a financial loss just so kids could get out and return to play the greatest game of all. The club bounced back this year by securing local community businesses as sponsors and that support has been repaid by club members who ensure they support those who support them.

The club also goes above and beyond to support the other codes of sport surrounding the club to ensure their game days run smoothly given the crossover of participants across the many different codes.

Harvey Norman Female Contribution Award

The Harvey Norman Female Contribution Award will be announced on Thursday, July 22.

The three regional finalists are:

QRL North - Gillian Bann

Gillian is the president of Yarrabah Junior Rugby League, but she is so much more than just that... she is the linchpin of the club - a mother figure and passionate advocate for providing opportunities for youth in her Indigenous community.

She may be an unassuming, quietly spoken person, but leads her team with direction and purpose and has been the catalyst in rebuilding junior league in Yarrabah after a two-year hiatus.

In 2021, the club has 119 players across eight teams that play in the Far North Queensland Rugby League competition.

Gillian has also built a strong link with the Seahawks' senior club; especially with their female participation; the Yarrabah Women's team a source of inspiration to the juniors with the club having the highest number of under 6-12 female registrations in FNQRL.

Gillian Bann with husband Sam.
Gillian Bann with husband Sam.

QRL Central - Shaun Hobson

Shaun is the head coach of the Wide Bay Bulls Under 17 and Harvey Norman Under 19 girls teams, as well as being the head coach of Fraser Coast's female RISE program.

He has been instrumental in promoting female rugby league in the area. Through his contacts at school and in the community, he has been able to assist leagues in the Wide Bay with fresh ideas to get female competitions up and running again.

His positive approach in a sometimes negative environment shines through and has been welcomed, as has his inclusivity of players, no matter their ability or background.

QRL South East - Ana Fotu

Ana is currently the vice president of Pine Central Holy Spirit Hornets and mastermind behind the club's female development program.

Despite some initial negativity, Ana persisted with starting the initiative in 2021 and after fielding four female teams last season, the club has expanded to hosting eight teams from under 12 to senior women thanks to her active approach to growing the female game in North Brisbane.

Amazingly, Ana juggles being a full-time worker, wife and mum with her football commitments as well finding time to play and coach the greatest game of all.

Ana Fotu coaching at Pine Central Holy Spirit.
Ana Fotu coaching at Pine Central Holy Spirit.
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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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