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QRL names 2023 Community Volunteer Award winners

Queensland Rugby League is this week proudly showcasing the achievements and contributions of some of the game’s most dedicated volunteers.

In line with the start of National Volunteer Week, QRL can today unveil the recipients of its very own Community Volunteer Awards for 2023.

Nominations from throughout the state were received for eight categories, with the QRL South East, Central and North region managers having assessed the merits of all applications.

The winners have been named today (see below), and not surprisingly, many of their individual stories are truly inspiring. 

QRL general manager of community and competitions Glenn Ottaway congratulated the recipients and acknowledged the collective input of all volunteers across the state.

“Volunteers are the heart and soul of community rugby league, and these awards help shine a light on those who play a vital role in providing a safe and organised environment for players, coaches and referees,” Ottaway said.

The QRL is showing its appreciation to the volunteers by offering the award recipients the ‘ultimate State of Origin experience’.

This prize includes tickets to the State of Origin match in Brisbane, Suncorp Stadium and XXXX Brewery tours, as well as an opportunity to watch the Maroons train.

QRL partners, led by Shell V-Power, Auswide Bank and Harvey Norman, have also contributed cash prizes to further support the work of clubs and leagues.

Below is a brief summary of the award recipients. will this week prolife each award winner in more detail.

2023 QRL Community Volunteer Award winners

Shell V-Power Volunteer of the Year – Joe Pennisi, Herbert River Crushers

A rugby league volunteer for 40 years, Joe (pictured above) lives and breathes rugby league. He has a proud history of coaching and mentoring many players from remote Indigenous communities and Papua New Guinea. He travels regularly for meetings and maintains the club’s grounds among many other roles. Joe receives a $1000 fuel voucher from Shell V-Power.

XXXX Community Club of the Year – Zenadth Kes Rugby League

By encouraging an inclusive space for families, the Thursday Island club has grown from 100 juniors to 140, while also adding 15 volunteers. The progressive club committee has demonstrated the importance of growing their volunteer base and providing engaging activities for all members, while working in partnership with various community organisations.

Club Administration of the Year – Jaz Burton, Pine Central Holy Spirit

A strong advocate for the game, Jaz has been instrumental in the creation of a greater social media footprint through various mechanisms. She has driven the adaption of the league’s Positive Environment Program, along with the promotion of the initiative on the ground and via social media. She was instrumental in securing more than $120,000 in sponsorship.

Community Match Official of the Year – Heath Zygnerski, Gold Coast Referees’ Association

Heath is well known for his ability to unite members through social activities and events. His upbeat and positive manner makes him a valuable mentor to many within the association and the Gold Coast rugby league community. Heath is always available to educate coaches, managers and players on rules and trends in the game.

Community Coach of the Year – Zeke Field, Caboolture Snakes

Through both school and community rugby league, Zeke is passionate about growing and supporting female rugby league. He continues to support students, community and representative teams in all facets of the game. As a proud father of a daughter who enjoys rugby league, Zeke not only supports her journey, but goes above and beyond in his many roles within the game to enhance the opportunities of others.

Harvey Norman Contribution to the Female Game Award – Ana Fotu, Pine Central Holy Spirit

Ana has been the driving force of female game development across the northside of Brisbane for many years. Her passion and commitment runs deep, with her drive to grow female participation across rugby league producing outstanding results. As well as being a senior player and coach, Ana is the female co-ordinator at Pine Central Holy Spirit and supports the RISE program. Ana receives a $250 gift voucher from Harvey Norman.

Young Person of the Year – Trinity Maclean (Brothers Ipswich / Ipswich Referees’ Association) & Douglas Brown (Dysart Bulls)

Trinity pours her heart into coaching the under Brothers Ipswich 7s, volunteers regularly around the club and this year was involved in her first year with the Ipswich Jets. She is also a committed referee with the Ipswich association. One of her strongest attributes is her ability to put a smile on the faces of people around her by reminding everyone to simply have fun.

While in school, Douglas took on the coaching of the Under 13s when they were struggling to find a coach. He took on this commitment with great enthusiasm while also playing his first year in the seniors' team. Some weekends, he would coach in one town and then have to drive to another town to play his game.

Auswide Bank Community Social Responsibility Program of the Year – Stanley River Junior Rugby League Club

Stanley River continues to be a community leader in the wellbeing and education space, having provided 11 youth mental health first aid accredited people who form part of QRL's Support Squad. In the past 12 months, the club has engaged with the QRL wellbeing team to facilitate two education programs around bullying and vaping. The club receives a $2000 gift voucher from Auswide Bank to assist with the continuation of its outstanding work.

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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