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NRL clubs are taking time out from the finals race to publicly honour their nominees for the 2009 Telstra Ken Stephen Medal – the award that pays tribute to the NRL player who has made the most outstanding contribution to community each year.

By the end of Round 26, all 16 clubs will have nominated the player who has shown himself a hero both on and off the field with the Panthers’ Petero Civoniceva and Bulldogs captain Andrew Ryan already announced and the rest to follow at home games over the next two weeks.

“It’s appropriate that at a time when crowds continue to rise, when ratings reach new highs and when all eyes are on the race for the final eight that the game takes time to recognise those players who inspire people both on and off the field,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.

“The Ken Stephen Medal for outstanding service to the community is one that every player should aspire to and the list of past winners, from Wayne Pearce in 1988 to Preston Campbell in 2008, symbolises the contribution players make on a daily basis.

“This is a special weekend for the game in that respect as we not only recognise our Ken Stephen Medal nominees but all members and fans have an opportunity to come out to ANZ Stadium on Sunday and celebrate with former Ken Stephen Medal winner Hazem El Masri as he plays his last home game with the Bulldogs.”

The Ken Stephen Medal will be presented at the annual One Community Awards on in Sydney on Tuesday, November 24, and, for the first time, fans will play their part in the judging process by being able to vote for one of the 16 finalists.

The chance to honour some of the game’s off-field stars this week will be part of an exciting round of Telstra Premiership action that is capturing the imagination of fans.

A record home crowd for the Wests Tigers’ match against Parramatta last round has continued to drive a rise in Sydney and game-wide crowd figures.

With two rounds to go before the Telstra Premiership Finals Series, Sydney crowds are up 4.5% with season attendances up 0.56% on this time last year.

“Everyone is still talking about Jarryd Hayne’s chip and chase and Benji Marshall’s flick pass last week and with every match this round having a bearing on the top eight the action will be just as intense,” Mr Gallop said.

“Every team will be relying on their fans to help give them a lift and for many clubs this will be their last home match of the year so I encourage everyone to get out to a game and enjoy the action.”

Acknowledgement of Country

National 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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