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One more week to nominate for Kayo NRL Community grassroots awards

Wayne Bender has never sought praise for his exhaustive role as the Bundaberg Junior Rugby League chairman, but his dedication has certainly not gone unnoticed. 

Bender is one of many worthy nominees for the title of Grassroots Volunteer of the Year as part of the Kayo NRL Community Awards 2020. Nominations for the category, as well as the Grassroots Club of the Year, are open for one more week before closing on September 4.

QRL operations manager (central region) David Pearce, who nominated Bender, encouraged others to recognise those "keeping our game going" by submitting an online application.

Pearce said Bender, whose adult children no longer play footy, possesses a "second to none" work ethic. The chairman ensured the Bundaberg Junior Rugby League competitions kicked off in July after the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to prevent any play.

"I had my doubts whether he could get it up and going when COVID hit us. He was adamant from the word go," Pearce told NRL.com.

"Wayne went in there boots and all and he was just terrific. I just think he's a wonderful man for what he does.

"His heart's in the game, his heart's on being successful. He said, 'I don't want these kids to walk away from our game and that's what'll happen if we don't have a competition'."

According to Pearce's nomination, Bender averages about 20 hours per week working on the Bundaberg JRL. On match days he will arrive early in the morning and stay until late in the afternoon.

"He's one of those people who doesn't expect accolades and he gets on with most people. He's got very good people skills," Pearce said.

"Wayne does everything from putting the goal-post pads on to line marking. There's just too many things to mention what he does as well as being chairman of the league.

"He's a very busy man. He works for an electrical business and he's always on call, on weekends sometimes, too."

Bender said his drive to make a mark is born from wanting to see "kids playing the game that I love the most".

He described his responsibilities as chairman as "exciting" but admitted "it wears you down at times".

"Anything I do, I do it right, to the best of my ability and above. I do put a lot of hours in on it," Bender said.

"My wife reckons I'm a fool at times. I'll give it to my wife: I'm a very lucky man that my wife understands that this is my passion and this is how I roll. She backs me when I need backing up."

One of the biggest challenges for Bender upon becoming chairman four years ago was poor behaviour from spectators in particular.

"Within 12 months, he had turned that right around. Just by being firm with people and [commanding] respect," Pearce said.

"Before I've had parents ring me and send me emails saying they won't be back because of the bad language that was going on and the bad behaviour by spectators. Wayne's cleaned all that up.

"He's been strict, he's stuck by the rules."

Bender added: "I don't have too much of that problem anymore. People have learnt very, very quickly that if you're going to misbehave, I'm going to ask you to go."

From coaches, referees, managers and officials to groundskeepers and cleaners, all volunteers are the lifeblood of community rugby league.

To submit a 2020 nomination for Volunteer of the Year or Grassroots Club of the Year award, click here.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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