Jamal Fogarty, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Ryan Matterson and Cody Walker have been recognised for their outstanding community work as 2021 Ken Stephen Medal finalists.
Brought to you by Your Local Club, the annual Ken Stephen Medal recognises the positive off-field impact generated by an NRL player.
Thirteen players were nominated for the 33rd edition of the award, with the winner - who will receive $3500 for their charity of choice and $3500 for themselves - to be announced on grand final day.
Walker won a fan vote to earn his place with the other finalists selected via an esteemed judging panel chaired by ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce, the inaugural 1988 Ken Stephen medallist.
- Full list and snapshots of the 2021 Ken Stephen Medal nominees
- Read more about the Ken Stephen Medal
Jamie Buhrer (RLPA), Hannah Hollis (Fox Sports), Alanna Duggan (ClubsNSW), Jaymes Boland-Rudder (NRL executive), Jason King (NRL football representative) and Karyn Murphy (NRL integrity representative) also contributed to the selection process.
"The NRL Community Awards are the most significant opportunity for our game’s heroes to receive recognition for their tireless service to the community," NRL Acting Head of Participation, Pathways & Community Andrew Every said.
"I want to congratulate all four finalists for the 2021 Ken Stephen Medal for this recognition, which I know that they do not seek or expect.
"I want to thank them for their consistent efforts in supporting their communities, especially in a year where many challenges were faced.
"Cody, Jamal, Ryan and Ronaldo are examples of some of the many NRL players that use their platform to drive positive social change in the rugby league community and beyond. This is a great opportunity for us as a game to celebrate them."
The finalists have dedicated countless hours to club community visits as well as passionately engaging in initiatives of their own accord.
Fogarty, a former youth worker in the justice system, considers himself lucky to spread positivity as he happily works with programs like Leagueability and schools.
A proud Indigenous leader, the Beaudesert Kingfishers junior is supporting the PCYC NSW and Titans Together charities.
"My goal is to go out and engage with people, to put a smile on their face for however long I'm with them," Fogarty said.
Matterson, who has almost completed a Certificate 4 in youth work, recently set up the Meraki Disability Support service with his brother Dean.
"We've been given a perfect opportunity to put our passion into work," said Matterson, who has nominated Heroes with Ability. for whom he is an ambassador, as his charity of choice.
"We've created a disability service with support workers assisting our clients in improving their social, emotional, physical skills in the community," the Bankstown Bulls junior added.
Mulitalo, a Springfield Panthers junior, is renowned for radiating kindness to all. An ambassador for Stepping Stone House, he has chosen to donate to the organisation if he wins.
The Cronulla winger was also involved in the NRL's Voice Against Violence and League for Life programs during his time visiting Papua New Guinea and has taken joy in leading his club for community hours for the past two years.
"My main priority was to be a real community man and not just a footballer. The best part is being able to put a smile on someone's face and make them feel good about themselves," Mulitalo said in 2020.
"I don't see myself as a footy star or as an NRL player still. I see myself as a person just trying to make someone else happy."
Walker, meanwhile, has continually championed social justice issues as well as committing himself to programs like NRL School to Work, Aboriginal Employment and Nanga Mai Marri (Dream Big).
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"Whether it be in the sporting [arena], school or employment, I just find great enjoyment out of helping young Aboriginal kids," Walker said.
He is heavily involved in the Rising Warriors program and would split $3500 between that and the Mudyala Aboriginal Corporation if he won.
In taking out the fan vote, Walker won a $3500 cash prize for his junior club, the Casino Cougars, in the NSW Northern Rivers region.
Boland-Rudder said it was incredibly tough for the judges to narrow down the candidates to four finalists.
"We considered each of the 13 nominations very carefully, went through a process of elimination and we got to a shortlist of eight," the NRL head of partnerships said.
"Then there was some extensive debate because of the high calibre of the nominations. We really had to hone in on the criteria.
"Full credit to these gentlemen who yet again have gone above and beyond in achieving that ultimate goal of rugby league."
ClubsNSW chairman George Peponis OAM spoke of his brand's delight at being affiliated with such a prestigious award.
"The club industry is proud of our long-standing relationship with the game of rugby league, and we are thrilled to be sponsoring the NRL’s Ken Stephen Medal under the Your Local Club brand," Peponis said.
"On behalf of the NSW club industry, I want to congratulate Cody, Jamal, Ronaldo and Ryan for being nominated for this prestigious award and look forward to recognising the winner during Grand Finals Week."
Knights utility Connor Watson won the 2020 Ken Stephen Medal while Raiders forward Sia Soliola was the 2019 honouree.