Parramatta’s Luke Burt has today been named the 2012 Harvey Norman Women in League ‘Favourite Son’, an award chosen by the women who contribute more than $12 million annually to the game.
Burt, 31, accepted the award in front of 280 guests, including his wife Madelin and mother Kerrie, at the annual Sydney lunch at the Deckhouse Restaurant, Woolwich, to celebrate this week’s Harvey Norman Women in League Round (June 22-25).
More than 6500 women across the game voted for the award for a player who acts as a role model to younger players and whose off-field characteristics embody the true values of the Rugby League community.
The previous winners include Canterbury-Bankstown’s Hazem El Masri (2009), Parramatta’s Nathan Hindmarsh (2010) and Penrith’s Petero Civoniceva (2011).
Burt, who announced on Friday that he would retire at the end of this season, beat a stellar field for the 2012 award, including Luke Lewis (Panthers), Kurt Gidley (Knights), Braith Anasta (Roosters), Terry Campese (Raiders), Matt Bowen (Cowboys), Joe Galuvao (Sea Eagles), Ben Creagh (Dragons), Luke Bailey (Titans) and Manu Vatuvei (Warriors).
“It is a real honour to receive this award on a day that is about acknowledging the women of Rugby League; women like my wife Madelin and my mum Kerrie, who are both here today and have played a significant role in my career,” Burt said.
“Events like today’s lunch and the Women in League Round are important fixtures on the Rugby League calendar, giving women across all levels of the game the recognition they deserve.”
ARLC General Manager of Community, Culture and Diversity, Trish Crews said she had known Burt since he was a “skinny schoolboy” making his debut for the Eels in 1999 when she worked for the Parramatta Club.
“I am very proud of the man he has become off the field, as well as the outstanding player he has been on the field with over 250 games for the one club,” she said.
“Luke is a great role model for young players and someone the women of Rugby League admire and respect. It is great to see his wife Madelin and mum Kerrie here today, as events like today’s lunch are about paying tribute to women involved in the game at all levels, as well as announcing our Favourite Son.”
Today’s Sydney lunch is one of a number of events over the next two weeks that will pay tribute to more than 52,000 women who give their time each week as Rugby League volunteers, officials, referees, administrators and players from the grass-roots to the elite level of the game. The other NRL functions will be in Ipswich QLD on Thursday, Bathurst NSW next Tuesday (June 26) and Bundaberg QLD (June 28).
Guests today included ARL Commission Chairman John Grant, ARL Commissioner Catherine Harris AO PSM, CEO Harvey Norman Katie Page, female NRL Club Board members, staff and Women in League ambassadors, players from across the code, the McGrath Foundation’s Tracy Bevan and Channel Nine presenter and Roosters Women in League ambassador, Leila McKinnon.
The 2012 Women in League Round kicks off at a time when women represent the fastest growing area of involvement in the sport, including female club membership which accounts for 41 per cent of all financial club members.
With 82,250 female NRL Club members in 2011, this represents an annual investment of over $12.3 million by women into Rugby League.
In addition more than $1.1 million has been raised through Harvey Norman Women in League activities and initiatives over the past 10 years, including over $400,000 for the McGrath Foundation, who have been a charity partner of the Harvey Norman Women in League for the past three years.
Of that $1.1 million, $730,000 has been raised by NRL Clubs through activities and events run by women’s groups, with the Dragons, Sea Eagles and Panthers leading the way.
The Dragons’ Crystal Bears Women in League was formed in 2002 and has raised $320,000 for the Joanne Mackay Foundation); Lavazza Eagles Angels, also formed in 2002, has raised $200,000 for the McGrath Foundation and various women’s and children’s charities on the Northern Beaches; and Panthers Women in League, formed 2006, has raised $200,000 for Penrith Community and Cancer Research, Cure the Future Foundation, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Many activities and events will be held across Australia and New Zealand over the next fortnight to celebrate the 2012 Harvey Norman Women in League Round, including:
- Almost 10,000 Rugby League players, referees and supporters across Australia - from the Sea Eagles NRL Club to the Gundagai Tigers Under 16s and the Freemantle Roosters Under 6s in WA - will wear hot pink socks as part of the McGrath Foundation’s ‘Pull On Your Socks’ campaign.
- Wests Tigers, Panthers, Roosters, Dragons, Broncos, Cowboys and Warriors (Round 17) will wear specially designed pink playing kits.
- 18 players from 11 clubs will wear special pink Blades football boots which will then be auctioned to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation and Club charities.
- Games in the Round will be played with pink Steeden match balls which will also be auctioned to raise money for the McGrath Foundation. Go to www.nrlauctions.com
- A new range of Women in League merchandise is available online at www.nrlshop.com with a percentage of WIL items purchased in June going to the McGrath Foundation.
- Women in League tattoos will be available in the Round 16 edition of Big League magazine and handed out at some matches.
- McGrath Foundation volunteers will also be out in force at the Panthers (Saturday, June 23) and Roosters (Sunday, June 24) games selling limited edition pink scarves and wigs for $10 each.
- At the Telstra Premiership games this week, the Harvey Norman video referee boards will turn pink; and the 40m lines and numbers on the field will also be turned pink.
- Harvey Norman will search for the best female fan during the WIL Round, with Harvey Norman prizes on offer through Big League magazine.
- The Panthers’ pink jerseys will be auctioned with 50 per cent of the proceeds being donated to the McGrath Foundation.
- While the pink socks have sold out, clubs are still able to register to fundraise via www.mcgrathfoundation.com.au, with the opportunity to win prizes for their club including a visit from a One Community Ambassador, Steeden footballs, pink NRL Women in League jerseys and signed NSW State of Origin, Kangaroos and All Stars jerseys.