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Queensland star Sam Thaiday’s tireless efforts to help close the gap on Indigenous health and youth issues has earned the Broncos captain-in-waiting the coveted 2011 Telstra Ken Stephen Medal at the NRL’s One Community Awards in Sydney tonight.

Thaiday, who was last month named to replace Darren Lockyer as Broncos captain in 2012, has been rewarded for his outstanding commitment to a wide range of community and charity activities in 2011, including his support of the Queensland health campaign “Deadly Ears”; Indigenous Family and Child Support Service; and Institute of Urban Indigenous Health. 

Thaiday was one of 10 One Community Awards winners announced tonight, including 2011 Toyota National Volunteer of the Year and mother-of-seven Penny Morgan, who spends more than 30 hours a week donating her time to the Kellyville Bushrangers; and Manly-Warringah, who won the Telstra One Community Club Program of the Year for their Sea Eagles Reads program.

More than 350 guests, including NRL club officials and players, award nominees, sponsors and prominent politicians attended the fifth annual One Community Awards at Sydney’s Town Hall.

The inspiring ceremony acknowledges and celebrates Rugby League’s unsung heroes, highlighting the outstanding and selfless contributions of a wide range of people from NRL players, volunteers, referees, teachers, students and administrators to the grassroots rugby league fraternity.

The One Community Awards launch a spectacular week of Grand Final celebrations for a 2011 season that saw NRL players and ambassadors devote over 28,000 hours to community work and the NRL and its clubs raise more than $2million for charity.

“It is very fitting that the prestigious One Community Awards kick off a week of spectacular celebrations leading up to the blockbuster Telstra Premiership Grand Final,” said NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop.

“The success of the Telstra Premiership is built on competition and community spirit which makes tonight’s One Community Awards a very important event on our calendar.

“All of the finalists and winners here tonight not only dedicate an extraordinary amount of time to Rugby League, but they do it with unwavering commitment and devotion.”

Thaiday won the Ken Stephen Medal for his ongoing commitment to actively participate in community and charity activities during his own time, as well as being an eager participant of all Broncos community activities, including work for the Brisbane Flood Relief, Broncos mentoring and Brisbane Youth Service.

In particular, he has worked tirelessly on “closing the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through his support of the Queensland health campaign “Deadly Ears”; Indigenous Family and Child Support Service; Institute of Urban Indigenous Health; and Communities Caring for Mind and Body tour. 

He is also an ambassador for Kidsafe, Kim Walters Choices Foundation, RSL Queensland, NDIS “Every Australian Counts” campaign and a Papua New Guinea Road Safety Campaign.

“When I think of the initiatives One Community carry out and the work the previous winners of this award have done, I feel very humbled,” Thaiday said.

“The community efforts of Rugby League don’t often create big publicity and I’m happy to play my small part in continuing to promote this.”

Alongside Sam Thaiday, Penny Morgan and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, tonight’s honour roll included the following award winners:

Telstra One Community Grassroots Club of the Year – Canley Vale Junior Rugby League Football Club, NSW
AAMI Service to the Community Award – The Northern Pride Rugby League Football Club, QLD
AAMI Service to Refereeing Award - Rodney Bowd, Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League Referees Association, NSW
Harvey Norman Women in League Award: Paid - Helen Wright, ARLD NSW
Harvey Norman Women In League Award: Volunteer - Madonna Bowers, Ipswich Junior RL QLD
ARL Development National Teacher of the Year Award: Primary - John Koletti Ashcroft Public School
Rugby League Learn Earn Legend! Award –  Holly Wilson, Bundamba QLD

The background on the winners of the 2011 One Community Awards are as follows:


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

Winner: Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos)
Sam has dedicated many hours of his own time to community work. His volunteer work has seen him participate in the Queensland health campaign “Deadly Ears”, the Indigenous Family and Child Support Service and the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health. 

Finalists: 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), Luke Lewis (Penrith Panthers), Bronx Goodwin (St George Illawarra Dragons), Martin Kennedy (Sydney Roosters), Jerome Ropati (Warriors), Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers).


Toyota National Volunteer of the Year
Toyota will provide $5,000 to the winner and $5,000 to the winner’s club. 

Winner: Penny Morgan, Kellyville Bushrangers, NSW
Penny Morgan is secretary of the Kellyville Bushrangers and she took out the Toyota National Volunteer of the Year for her effort to assist Queensland Rugby League clubs affected by the devastating floods earlier in the year. Penny raised $3,500 and also organised for over 60 volunteers to travel to the remote town of Theodore, near Rockhampton in Central Queensland, for a “Goodwill State of Origin Tour” in an effort to bring the Rugby League community together.

Finalists: 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), John Cullen (Group 2 Referees Association), Liz Prosser (Group 9 JRL), Terry Smith (Evans Head Bombers RLFC)


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. 

Winner: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
The Sea Eagles Reads reading program uses NRL players as mentors and tutors in weekly reading sessions in public, catholic and independent primary schools. The activity has now been built into the team’s weekly schedule and every Tuesday the club visits local schools as part of the program.

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


Telstra One Community Grassroots Club of the Year
Telstra will provide two Telstra Assistance Packs valued at $3,000 each plus $2,000.  

Canley Vale Junior Rugby League Football Club
The Canley Vale Junior Rugby League Football Club became active supporters of Stewart House, after seeing the charity assist many people in their club and the wider community. Canley Vale JRLFC club has committed to donating $5 from each child and official’s registration fees to Stewart House, as well as donating a percentage of funds raised from raffles run throughout the season.

Finalists: Rockhampton Brothers JRLFC and Asquith RLFC

AAMI Service to the Community
AAMI will provide $5,000 towards the winner’s community program.

Winner: Northern Pride Rugby League Football Club, QLD
The Northern Pride Rugby League Football Club took out the AAMI Service to the Community Award for their self-funded program, Take Pride. This is a program which uses Rugby League to deliver outcomes in education, employment and health. They have reached over 55,000 community members through 250 school visits and over 50 community activities in the Cape York and the Gulf regions.

Finalists: Ronny Gibbs and Sir Peter Leitch

AAMI Service to Refereeing
AAMI will provide $2,500 to the winner.  

Winner: Rodney Bowd (Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League Referees Association, NSW)
Rodney Bowd has given more than 25 years of service to Rugby League and often travels up to 150km to referee games. He is passionate about encouraging others of the benefits and rewards of becoming a referee. On one occasion Rodney obtained a bus and took a group of young referees to a clinic on the Central Coast run by Shayne Hayne, a referee in the National Rugby League.

Finalists: Darren Winningham, Gold Coast Referees Association, Tony Hardy, Group 4 CRL Referee Association


Harvey Norman Women in League Award: Volunteer
Harvey Norman will provide the winner with a $5,000 Harvey Norman gift voucher.

Winner: Madonna Bowers (Ipswich Junior RL QLD)
On average, Madonna Bowers volunteers 15 hours a week to volunteer her time to supporting Rugby League. She sits on the Queensland Women’s Rugby League Board and has been instrumental in changing the culture of Rugby League in Ipswich, ensuring females are recognised and encouraged to be involved in the game. She was also a major advocate for the Ipswich Junior Rugby League Open Girls Competition, which was launched this year.

Finalists: Beverley Brankstone (Rockingham Coastal Sharks WA), Elizabeth McKinley (Lakes United RLC NSW), 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.

Winner: Helen Wright (ARLD NSW)
As part of her job with ARLD NSW, Helen Wright travels all over Australia and New Zealand. Although her position is only 40 hours a week she regularly dedicates much of her own time to service 22 junior Rugby League clubs and thousands of volunteer associations. Helen was responsible for the collation and reporting of the National Participation Statistics and in 2011 designed and developed a comprehensive report on all participants.

Finalists: Kasey Badger (NSW Referees Association), Yvonne Purtell (Penrith Panthers)

ARL Development National Teacher of the Year
ARLD will provide $2,500 to the winning teacher and a $500 equipment pack for their school

Winner: John Koletti (Ashcroft Public School, NSW)
John Koletti is a teacher at Ashcroft Public Primary School in New South Wales. He works tirelessly promoting Rugby League, through coaching clinics, player visits and Rugby League One Community initiatives. He implemented the Eat Well. Play Well. Stay Well program into Ashcroft Public School, teaching children the importance of healthy food options and being involved in fitness activities. He has successfully used Rugby League Reads magazines in the school’s reading programs and this has seen positive results in the classroom.

Finalists:  Dan Dalziel (Cairns West State School), Steve Hooper (Red Bend Catholic College), Chris Bettiol (Marian College), 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

Winner: Holly Wilson (Bundamba, QLD)
Holly Wilson is 17 years old and is school captain at Bundamba State Secondary College in Queensland. Holly is part of the Broncos Mentoring Program and was an active participant in the Learn. Earn. Legend! All Stars Youth Summit. She also holds a role on the Indigenous Advisory2 Committee and recently provided artwork for the school calendar and the upcoming Brisbane Broncos Mentoring Program booklet.

Finalists: Phillip Hunter (Wilcannia, NSW) and Zhane Saylor (Condon, QLD)