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NRL introduces women's rugby league Community Award

The NRL will reward the work female players are doing in the community after creating an equivalent women's Ken Stephen Medal as part of the NRL Community Awards.

With nominations now open across six of the categories, the awards offer a great opportunity for the game's unsung heroes to receive the recognition they deserve.

NRL fans are also being encouraged to nominate who the female award should be named after – whether it be a former player or an administrator that has gone above and beyond.

The NRL's head of government and community relations, Jaymes Boland-Rudder, said with the way the female game was growing on and off the field, it was only fitting that women have their own category in the community awards as of this year.

"The future of our sport is in NRLW, it's in our women," Boland Rudder said.

"Equality is core to our belief as a game - we want to make sure that our male players and our female players are put on the same footing.

"We have seen our NRLW players consistently go above and beyond. Putting their hand up and saying I want to go out there and inspire more young girls to take up rugby league, and more importantly inspiring young girls and boys to take care of their mental health and be respectful in their relationships that they have with one another.

"The contribution they have made out in the community is shown through the growth at a grassroots level of 20 percent year-on-year for the last three years.

"It's definitely going to be an incredibly difficult task to narrow the female award down to four finalists."

Wayne Pearce reflects on winning inaugural Ken Stephen Medal

The NRL are also re-introducing a Young Person of the Year award, which recognises the young people (aged between 12 and 24) who make a significant contribution to their communities through rugby league and their involvement in the 16 NRL clubs' community-based programs.

The returning categories include: Ken Stephen Medal, Volunteer of the Year, Grassroots Club of the Year, Teacher of the Year, Women In League Achievement Award and NRL Club Community Program of the Year.

Boland-Rudder said the Community Awards were an initiative of the NRL to celebrate all the success stories off the field.

"We've identified as an organisation that we're uniquely placed to unite communities and inspire change," Boland-Rudder said.

"It's called out in our game's strategic plan and we want to encourage everybody to take that responsibility really seriously and then celebrate the successes.

“There are so many people in our game that do incredible things and although the Community Awards recognise a select few, they celebrate the contribution of all."