St George Illawarra Dragons forward Joel Thompson has been nominated for the 2017 Ken Stephen Medal.
Last year's Ken Stephen Medal Award winner, Joel Thompson, has made it his personal goal to inspire others.
Drawing upon his own experiences to positively impact the lives of disadvantaged and at-risk youth, Joel has a captivating story to tell. He understands better than most about the hardships that young people can face and this is very much the driving force behind his off-field actions.
"I come from pretty humble beginnings, I moved around a fair bit and I saw a lot of things that kids probably shouldn't see growing up," said the Dragons star.
Joel has never forgotten his roots, regularly visiting remote areas and his old high school, Red Bend Catholic College. Joel is also one of six players to support children through the Dragons Indigenous Mentoring Program.
This year, Joel has been actively involved in the 2017 Dragons School Diary, stressing the importance of a healthy lifestyle, as well as Dusty and Friends, an early childhood resilience program. Away from the Dragons, Joel has been an enthusiastic participant in a range of NRL community programs, including the NRL Dream Believe Achieve, School to Work and State of Mind. As an NRL State of Mind ambassador, Joel helps to tackle the stigma regarding mental illness.
Not content with promoting the importance of education in the community, Joel is currently studying hard to achieve a Bachelor of Social Work degree. His ambition is to work in the juvenile justice system at the completion of his Rugby League career.
The Ken Stephen Medal
Ken Stephen was an administrator who devoted 28 years to the NSWRL in various capacities. He retired shortly before his death in 1988. The Ken Stephen Medal recognises the efforts of an NRL player, who has not only achieved on the field, but has also committed time off the field to community projects.
A player is nominated by their NRL club for their involvement in charity work, youth development or community support. The nominated player will have consistently demonstrated their commitment to making a difference in their community and be seen as a role model in this area at their NRL club.
The NRL Community Awards recognise Rugby League's unsung heroes for the tireless work they do to support the game they love. From volunteers and teachers, to players at a first-grade level, the awards pause to honour, reflect and congratulate those who make a positive difference for many in their communities, week after week.