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The National Rugby League (NRL) is pleased to announce the grassroots award winners as part of the 2022 Community Awards, which seeks to honour the individuals who work tirelessly in the community to make rugby league Australia’s favourite sport.

Established in 2007, the NRL Community Awards have grown into rugby league’s most prestigious community-focused awards ceremony and consist of eight award winners with categories ranging from grassroots through to the elite.

This year, the grassroots element of the Community Awards has grown to include six awards following the establishment of the Indigenous Community Award.

NRL Head of Participation, Community and Game Development Andrew Every congratulated this year’s award winners and thanked them for their commitment to growing rugby league.

“The NRL Community Awards are about recognising and celebrating our game’s unsung heroes and to thank them for the tireless work they do in the community,” Every said.

The 2022 winners are a representation of the thousands of volunteers across the country who give up their time to help rugby league thrive, both on and off the field.

Andrew Every NRL Head of Participation, Community and Game Development

“It has been great to present these awards to the winners, often as a surprise, in front of their loved ones, friends and rugby league family in their local communities.

“I’d also like to thank Your Local Club for their continued support of the awards as our 2022 sponsor for the Community Rugby League Club of the Year. It’s an honour to spotlight a few of these incredible people and clubs each year as part of the awards and I thank every volunteer who makes this game great.”

The NRL would like to congratulate the below award winners and recognise them for their ongoing and extensive contributions to the rugby league community.

Volunteer of the Year

Winner: Wendy Povey, New South Wales

This award recognises a volunteer who has provided exceptional service to the game and made a significant impact in their community — demonstrating exceptional support in the advancement and promotion of rugby league across the community.

Wendy is the true heart of Morpeth Junior Rugby League Club. Not only is Wendy a founding member of the club, she volunteers over 40 hours a week as Club Treasurer, Canteen Supervisor and Merchandise Co-ordinator. For 30 years, Wendy has worked tirelessly to keep the club thriving. She divides her time between many roles at the club, involving her family and friends for support. Whether it is collecting canteen supplies, printing and distributing flyers, organising raffle tickets, increasing registrations or attending meetings, Wendy is always busy volunteering her time. 

Community Rugby League Club of the Year, supported by Your Local Club

Winner: Narromine Jets Rugby League, New South Wales

This award recognises a rugby league club that has enhanced participation and enjoyment of rugby league within their club. The club is recognised as an integral part of their community going above and beyond to make a positive impact through rugby league.

The club organises numerous events, bringing the community together through Rugby League. The Community Colour Run, Community Ball, Christmas Light Tours on the club bus, Friday Night Family Social Touch Football competition and Jersey Designing competitions are just some of the ways the locals have been brought together by the club.

With a large local Aboriginal population, Narromine Jets Rugby League Club runs Indigenous Rounds, with a member of the community designing the jersey.  

Local charities are also supported by the club, with a Charity Round raising money by auctioning jerseys worn by the first-grade players. Organisations supported include Narromine Rescue Squad, Narromine Cancer Support Group and Narromine MS Support Group – in total $100,000 has been raised and donated to local charities.  

“The Narromine Jets support several worthy charities and are dedicated to bringing about their community together and helping those in need, which is what clubs are all about,” said ClubsNSW Chairman Dr George Peponis OAM.

“ClubsNSW is proud to sponsor the NRL Community Rugby League Club of the Year Award under the Your Local Club banner and we look forward to seeing what else the Narromine Jets accomplish in the future.”

Young Person of the Year

Winner: Ethan Garton, Queensland

This award recognises a person aged between 12-24 years old who has demonstrated a commitment to advancing the NRL’s mission of using rugby league to bring people together to enrich their lives. The Young Person of the Year Award recognises and celebrates the positive contribution of young people to the game of rugby league and the wider community.

At just 15 years of age, Ethan has already made a significant difference to his club, Highfields Eagles. As a volunteer, Ethan wears a number of different hats from player, referee, league safe water runner and ball boy, all of which he completes with great enthusiasm and a smile. His positive attitude, humble nature and determination at such a young age are to be admired.

Juggling school, sport and his volunteer work is a large task, and Ethan is at the club for up to nine hours on game day – always eagerly giving back to the club. He often does not even have time to celebrate a team win as he is playing up in a higher level or officiating the next game – but this is something he takes in his stride.

Teacher of the Year

Winner: Alysia Bader, Northern Territory

The Teacher of the Year is awarded to the teacher who has provided their students with significant opportunities to become involved in rugby league activities on and off the field.

As both a Rugby League referee and a player representing Northern Territory in the Women’s Rugby League Championship in 2021, students of Katherine School of the Air have a true role model of the game in their teacher, Alysia Bader. 

Katherine School of the Air students are distant education students, yet Alysia embraces the physical challenges and engages her students through Rugby League in a variety of ways. Once a term, the students come together for sport rotations – Rugby League is always included and is the most popular choice of her students. On these face-to-face days, and through a virtual platform, Alysia organises development officers to teach her students about Rugby League. Reading Rugby League based readers to her younger students, and League Stars Aspire programs to her older students, she finds genuine ways to use Rugby League in the classroom. 

Women in League Award

Winner: Jessica Ashcroft, New South Wales

The Women in League Award is presented to someone who has acted as an exceptional advocate for the advancement and opportunity of women in rugby league.

Jessica played Rugby League for Forbes Magpies Junior Rugby League Club from a young age and is now an exceptional player for the club’s Senior Competition. But more than that, she always looks for opportunities to pass on her knowledge and skills to others and is a wonderful role model for the girls and boys of her club. Coaching the Under 8s, refereeing for the club and mentoring upcoming referees are just some of the ways Jessica makes a significant impact on youth at Forbes Magpies Junior Rugby League Club. 

Indigenous Community Award

Winner: Victor Wright, New South Wales

The Indigenous Community Award is presented to someone who has acted as an exceptional advocate for the growth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation in rugby league. 

Victor Wright was one of the six founding members of the annual NSW Koori Rugby League Knockout Carnival, and the longest playing founder. The Knockout intended to provide a stage for talented Indigenous footballers who were not selected to play in the NRL. As the Knockout Carnival celebrates its 50th Anniversary, Victor is still involved in numerous ways – assisting Campbelltown Ghost RLFC with their preparation and as a member of the Knockout Exhibition Reference Group. 

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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