One Community Awards to launch GF week

Courage and skill on the football field take a back seat to selfless acts of rugby league service by the game’s players, workers and volunteers when the fifth annual rugby league One Community Awards seizes the spotlight next Monday night.

Launching Grand Final Week, it’s the occasion when rugby league acknowledges and celebrates its unsung heroes, highlighting the tremendous contributions from a wide range of individuals including volunteer coaches, community workers, referees, NRL players and clubs, as well as the tireless work of myriad teachers and development officers.

Around 350 invited guests will attend the glittering ceremony at the Sydney Town Hall, including NRL club officials and players, award nominees including all Ken Stephen Medal nominees, plus sponsors and prominent politicians.

This year, the finalists for the 10 community awards will be in the running for a prize pool of more than $60,000 – including a $5000 educational scholarship to the recipient of the inaugural 'Learn Earn Legend!' Award, recognising outstanding achievement and application to education, employment, culture and the community by a young Indigenous Australian.

For many regional nominees this will be their first visit to Sydney and the NRL aims to provide them with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Female nominees will be treated to an afternoon of pampering and styling, while the Volunteer of the Year will be invited to spend the entire week in Sydney – culminating in the delivery of the Telstra Premiership trophy (with the Ken Stephen Medal Winner) into ANZ Stadium via the Telstra Child Flight on Grand Final day!

The coveted Telstra Ken Stephen Medal has an esteemed honour roll including One Community Ambassador Hazem El Masri, Peter Sterling, Wayne Pearce and last year's recipient, retiring Bulldogs skipper Andrew Ryan.

Ryan received his award as reward for years of outstanding service to the game, both on and off the field, and his devotion to community programs and charities such as Camp Quality, Beyond Blue, Ronald McDonald House, Bandage Bear Cup, the Australian Disability Foundation and the Andrew Ryan Captain’s Cup.

As is typical of the great servants of rugby league, Ryan remains humble about his award.

“My work within the community is not something I feel deserves praise,” he said. “rugby league players have a unique opportunity to make a positive difference to people’s lives and helping wherever we can is not only important work, but it’s something we enjoy doing.”

This year’s nominees are: David Shillington (Canberra Raiders), Dene Halatau (Canterbury Bulldogs), Luke Douglas (Cronulla Sharks), Preston Campbell (Gold Coast Titans), Brent Kite (Manly Sea Eagles), Dane Nielsen (Melbourne Storm), Ben Rogers (Newcastle Knights), Tariq Sims (North Queensland Cowboys), Ben Smith (Parramatta Eels), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos), Luke Lewis (Penrith Panthers), Bronx Goodwin (St George Illawarra Dragons), Martin Kennedy (Sydney Roosters), Jerome Ropati (Warriors), Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers).

NRL Director Community, Culture and Diversity, Trish Crews, said the One Community Awards finalists for 2011 were outstanding examples of how individuals’ efforts could make a huge impact.

“It is astounding to see the amount of hours that those across the game dedicated to rugby league, more often than not on a voluntary basis,” she said.

“The One Community Awards is a truly inspiring event which provides an opportunity for us to personally thank those who work behind the scenes to make rugby league the great game it is.”

Find out more about the Awards here

The finalists for the 2011 One Community Awards are:

Telstra Ken Stephen Medal

Telstra will provide $5,000 to the winner and $5,000 to the winner’s favourite charity.

David Shillington (Canberra Raiders), Dene Halatau (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Luke Douglas (Cronulla Sharks), Preston Campbell (Gold Coast Titans), Brent Kite (Manly Sea Eagles), Dane Nielsen (Melbourne Storm), Ben Rogers (Newcastle Knights), Tariq Sims (Nth Qld Cowboys), Ben Smith (Parramatta Eels), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos), Luke Lewis (Penrith Panthers), Bronx Goodwin (St George Illawarra Dragons), Martin Kennedy (Sydney Roosters), Jerome Ropati (Warriors), Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers).

Telstra One Community NRL Club Program of the Year

Telstra will provide $10,000 towards the winning club's community program and/or staff development training for community relations staff.

Brisbane Broncos, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, North Queensland Cowboys, St George Illawarra Dragons, Parramatta Eels, Newcastle Knights, Manly Sea Eagles, Wests Tigers, Gold Coast Titans, Penrith Panthers, Cronulla Sharks, South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Toyota National Volunteer of the Year

Toyota will provide $5,000 to the winner and $5,000 to the winner’s club

Steve Barz (Wee Wah RLFC), Glenys Ellis (Arncliffe Scots JRLFC), Bob and Jan Christison (Ipswich rugby league), Debbie Marzella (Gold Coast RL), Angela Van Der Poel (Wattles JRLC), Jacqueline Jones (Gladstone & District JRL Inc), Rees Leyshon (Rouse Hill JRLFC), Denis Anderson (Parramatta RLFC), Penny Morgan (Kellyville Bushrangers), John Cullen John (Group 2 Referees Association), Liz Prosser (Group 9 JRL),Terry Smith (Evans Head Bombers RLFC).

Harvey Norman Women in League Award: Volunteer

Harvey Norman will provide the winner with a $5,000 Harvey Norman gift voucher

Beverley Brankstone (Rockingham Coastal Sharks WA), Elizabeth McKinley (Lakes United RLC NSW), Madonna Bowers (Ipswich Junior RL Qld), Debbie Thomas (Cooma Stallions NSW).

Harvey Norman Women in League Award: Paid

Harvey Norman will provide the winner with a $5,000 Harvey Norman gift voucher

Kasey Badger (NSW Referees Association), Yvonne Purtell (Penrith Panthers), Helen Wright (ARLD NSW).

Telstra One Community Grassroots Club of the Year

Telstra will provide two Telstra Assistance Packs valued at $3,000 each plus $2,000

Rockhampton Brothers JRLFC, Canley Vale JRLFC, Asquith RLFC.

AAMI Service to the Community

AAMI will provide $5,000 towards the winner’s community program

Ronnie Gibbs, Northern Pride RLFC, Sir Peter Leitch.

AAMI Service to Refereeing

AAMI will provide $2,500 to the winner

Darren Winningham, Gold Coast Referees Association, Rodney Bowd, Tony Hardy, Group 4 CRL Referee Association.

ARL Development National Teacher of the Year

ARLD will provide $2,500 to the winning teacher and a $500 equipment pack for their school

Dan Dalziel (Cairns West State School), Steve Hooper (Red Bend Catholic College), Chris Bettiol (Marian College), John Koletti (Ashcroft Public School), Kathryn Drew (Woodport Public School), Tim Wykes (Kooringal High School).

Rugby League 'Learn Earn Legend!' Award

DEEWR will provide the winner with a $5,000 educational scholarship

Phillip Hunter (Wilcannia, NSW), Holly Wilson (Bundamba Qld), Zhane Saylor (Condon Qld).

Find out more about the Awards here

Tweet your support for the Nominees: #onecomm