About the Medal
The Ken Stephen Medal recognises the efforts of an NRL player who has not only achieved on the field, but has committed time off the field to community projects.
This year was the 31st instance that the Ken Stephen Medal has been awarded, with a host of worthy recipients receiving this prestigious award since Wayne Pearce won the inaugural medal in 1988, including Ryan James, Joel Thompson, Jonathan Thurston and Nathan Hindmarsh.
James Tedesco, Josh Addo-Carr, Gavin Cooper, Connor Watson and Sia Soliola were amongst some of the game’s biggest names to be nominated by their clubs for the 2019 Ken Stephen Medal.
The 2019 Ken Stephen Medallist was announced during Grand Final week. Through NRL.com, fans had the opportunity to select the nominee they felt deserved to be a finalist. A panel of experts from across the game selected the remaining three finalists and eventual winner.
The 2019 Ken Stephen Medal is proudly supported by wealth, property and well-being consultancy, One Solutions.
This year's winner
Sia Soliola, Canberra Raiders
Our 2019 Ken Stephen Medallist is Canberra Raiders' Sia Soliola - a champion on and off the field!
Sia is the consummate club professional in his understanding and dedication to promoting both the game of rugby league and the Canberra Raiders. He understands his role both as a club leader where he is often referred to in the media as the “spiritual leader” and someone who brings the internal values of the Raiders to life.
As part of his club commitments, Sia has been involved in an extensive range of activities including Shave for a Cure, NRLD School Holiday Clinic and McHappy Day.
Sia works each Monday (even after a heavy game the day before) in the Early Morning Centre’s Soup Kitchen as his commitment to improving the lives of people who experience homelessness.This is an extension to Sia’s work raising money through the Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout and has been an on-going commitment for more than three years.
Sia has a long-term associations with a range of charitable organisations. He is a well-known ambassador for children with Angelman’s Syndrome - an association which began during his time playing in the UK. He also works with Kulture Break that uses the performing arts to assist disadvantaged children. The Raiders have had a long-standing relationship with Menslink, an organisation that specialises in counselling at-risk young men which Sia has become an ambassador for and he’s also the face of the Silence is Deadly program.
Apart from the breadth of Sia’s involvement in areas outside of his Raiders commitments, it is the long-term commitment he has made to many programs which demonstrates that his dedication goes well beyond any passing fad or box-ticking exercise.
This year's finalists
Corey Norman, St George Illawarra Dragons
Five-eighth Corey Norman who made his State of Origin debut for Queensland in 2019 joined the Dragons this season and quickly recognised the importance of being engaged in grassroots programs.
Corey appreciates the positive influence NRL players have had on his own development, so he has been active in attending local junior league clubs, school assemblies, community events and training experiences. Corey has also shown an active interest in the visits from children involved in the Clontarff Academies from Dubbo South, Mt Druitt and Shalvey who have attended training this year as part of their program to assist young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to improve their education, life skills, discipline and self-esteem.
With a genuine interest beyond his club requirements, Corey has also volunteered to spend time with students participating in the NRL School to Work program as well as young men and women involved in PCYC Groups and Youth at Risk who have also attended training at various stages throughout the year.
Since 2018, outside of his commitment to the NRL, Corey has regularly volunteered his time with the Pass It On Clothing & Co - a company founded in 2016 by Chris Vagg and Olga Puga which takes clothing donations directly to those in need.
Corey takes great satisfaction in helping and inspiring others; he has a unique gift in this space and seeks opportunities where he can assist and/or become involved and always does so with commitment and enthusiasm. However, perhaps even more importantly, Corey is a role model for other players. He demonstrates leadership and encourages others to also become involved in community and charitable activities.
Agnatius Paasi, New Zealand Warriors
New Zealand Warriors’ Agnatius Paasi is always one of the first players to volunteer for extra community work. His particular area of interest is children and families, especially those doing it tough due to poverty and homelessness. He has completed a youth aid qualification and is a loving father of four children of his own.
Enjoying a hands-on approach, Agnatius has been the key driver behind the Warriors regular visits to Auckland soup kitchens this year, as well as the raincoat program with KidsCan children's charity who work with children in low socio economic areas providing basic food items, warm raincoats, shoes, socks and health care items.
As a fundraiser for the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation, Agnatius is seeking sponsors before he cuts off his signature locks at the final game of the 2019 season.
Agnatius was the driving force in organising a container of building materials, education materials, blankets, clothing and food that was sent to Tonga following Cyclone Gita. He has also been a regular participant assisting with the facilitation of the Warriors Mental Wealth programs which have been delivered through Grassroots Rugby League clubs in New Zealand. Agnatius is grateful for the opportunities he has as a professional football and likes to be reminded of how fortunate he is and live a life that enables him to help others..
Agnatius believes that every human being deserves to have the same opportunities to live a full and happy life regardless of their beginnings, middle or end. He is always open and positive in his dealings with people and will go out of his way to help.
Josh Aloiai, Wests Tigers
Wests Tigers second rower Josh Aloiai consistently uses his platform in the NRL to make a positive contribution to the community.
In addition to being a Voice Against Violence Advocate for the NRL, Josh is actively engaged in Wests Tigers community programs with a focus on wellbeing, education and inclusion.
As part of this program, Josh has visited local hospitals in Campbelltown, Liverpool, Westmead and Sydney Children’s, participating in Wests Tigers Christmas toy drives, Easter visits, Radiothon, International Women’s Day at Liverpool hospital, Dry July and World No Tobacco Day.
Josh is the face of the Wests Tigers’ anti bullying ‘Celebrating Differences’ program which educates students on celebrating our differences and accepting people living with a disability. He was involved in the creation of this program which has been delivered to schools in the Inner and South West of Sydney. This presentation was a key focus for 2019 and has reached more than 15,000 school students during a two-day Wests Tigers Community Carnival.
Outside of his regular club commitments Josh continues to use his platform to go above and beyond to assist with different youth, community and charity groups. Josh is most passionate about the work he does for Feel the Magic, a charity that helps bereaved children and teenagers aged 7-17, by educating and providing support to improve mental health and wellbeing. This is a particularly personal cause, as Josh lost his own father when he was just 13. Josh volunteers for Feel the Magic as a mentor at their Camp Magic Programs, which is the largest grief and support program in Australia.
In order to maintain his charitable work and community outreach, Josh has to juggle a hectic schedule which includes his NRL training commitments as well as studying for a Diploma in Small Business at night school.
This year's nominees
Thank you to each of this year's nominees for their extraordinary commitment to community. Click on the links below to find out more about some of nominee's off-field work and click here to read more detailed biographies.
Andrew McCullough, Brisbane Broncos
Adam Elliott, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Michael Gordon, Gold Coast Titans
Joel Thompson, Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
'It's personal': Tedesco's passion for mental health awareness
'Man of service' Winterstein a shining light for youngsters
Hard-working Cooper delivering the big hits educating Generation Next
'You can't explain the feeling': Brown's commitment to helping others