The injury that shattered Sharks halfback Albert Kelly’s season has inspired him to change the lives of children across the state, earning him the One Community Good Guy of the Month award for May.
Facing up to eight weeks on the sideline through injury, 20-year-old Kelly has instead turned his attention to helping his local community including mentoring students at the primary and high schools he attended and inspiring players from a special needs junior Rugby League team.
Alongside Sharks team-mates Colin Best, Luke Douglas, Ben Pomeroy, Chad Townsend, Stewart Mills and Ricky Leutele, Kelly recently attended a special needs training day for the Engadine Dragons where he lent a hand running a range of drills.
The Engadine Dragons recently fielded their first ever special needs junior Rugby League team in a one-off game against a special needs team from the Illawarra region, which was played at Toyota Stadium prior to the Round 10 Sharks v Roosters match using rules adapted to suit the varying needs and abilities of both teams.
“The Sharks boys were fantastic with the special needs players and treated them all with the utmost respect and kindness,” one parent said.
“At some points during the training, it was hard to tell who was having more fun - the Sharks or the younger players!”
“Being a parent of a child with a disability is one of the toughest things to do and providing parents with the opportunity to see their children fulfill their dreams is one of the greatest gifts you can give them; for some parents today was emotional, exciting and inspiring,” said another parent.
Kelly’s efforts in the community continued with a visit to his primary and high schools where he mentored students about the importance of having and setting goals, of striving to achieve those goals and of staying determined and focused in the face of adversity.
"I had the chance to chat with a lot of the kids in the classroom about being a professional footballer and the responsibilities that come with that,” Kelly said.
“There's obviously a lot more to Rugby League these days so it was good to share my experiences and how important it is to follow your dream.”
The Bowraville Tigers junior also recently returned to his grassroots days, attending a local footy game between the Macleay Valley Mustangs and Russell Crowe’s Orora Valley Axemen where he signed autographs for fans and judged the Man of the Match.
Then, a few days later he visited the Como Crocodiles Junior Rugby League team where, together with Sharks team-mate Nathan Gardner, he assisted the team at training and a subsequent BBQ.
“Albert is clearly very passionate and committed to helping the community,” NRL Director of Community, Culture and Diversity, Trish Crews, said.
“It is inspiring that he has involved himself in so much community work while recovering from injury and he has certainly established himself as a role model for young people.”
Rugby League’s One Community Good Guy of the Month award acknowledges and recognises the inspiring and widespread commitment of NRL players to the community throughout the season.
As the Good Guy of the Month, Kelly will receive one night’s accommodation including breakfast for two courtesy of NRL sponsor the Holiday Inn.