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Knights NRL star Connor Watson and Warriors NRLW captain Georgia Hale have been awarded the Ken Stephen and Veronica White Medals for their community work.

The pair were honoured in a ceremony at ANZ Stadium before the Telstra Premiership grand final on Sunday.

Watson, who was also nominated for the Ken Stephen Medal last season, has dedicated himself to preventing Indigenous youth suicide through his family's Cultural Choice Association charity.

Their impactful and inspirational work was born from tragedy after Watson's teenage cousin Parker took his own life in 2017.

The 24-year-old Newcastle utility's Boots for Brighter Futures initiative reached new heights this year, with $24,000 raised from auctioning 56 pairs of specially-painted boots worn by Knights, Tigers, Titans and Warriors players in Indigenous Round.

Young Indigenous people, many from juvenile justice centres, had the opportunity to design the boots of their idols.

A season-ending achilles injury cruelly prevented Watson from playing in Indigenous Round, but his class shone through as he fronted up to media commitments and promoted the cause brilliantly.

"It's something that we've spoken about as a family and that we're really passionate about," Watson said of Boots for Brighter Futures in an interview with in September.

Warriors skipper Georgia Hale.
Warriors skipper Georgia Hale. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"It's been awesome to see other clubs, other players jump on board and it is something that they're really passionate about as well."

Hale, in addition to being a wonderful role model and trailblazer on the field, is constantly helping others with genuine passion via her role as the Warriors' community coordinator.

The lock was also nominated for last year's Veronica White Medal.

The 25-year-old, who was named the 2020 Young New Zealander of the Year, has made a difference on countless school visits.

Hale has been devoted to assisting rural communities, children, the intellectually disabled and a variety of charities.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the club's outreach programs, but Hale continued to assist through Zoom calls as well as her own food-bank collections and wellbeing sessions with friends and family.

"We couldn't be prouder of Georgia. She brings enormous credit on herself in the most selfless manner," Warriors CEO Cameron George said when Hale was named Young New Zealander of the Year.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo paid tribute to Watson and Hale and said both were exceptional ambassadors for rugby league.

“It is so fitting for us to showcase these two exceptional people on our biggest day of the year,” Mr Abdo said.

“So many of our players undertake a significant amount of work off the field – much of it done very quietly – tonight was our chance to acknowledge that work. Rugby League brings communities together and Connor and Georgia have led the way in 2020."

The Ken Stephen Medal is brought to you by My Property Consultants while the Veronica White Medal is supported by Apprenticeship Careers Australia. Both medals are part of the Kayo NRL Community Awards 2020.

RLPA Players' Champion Nathan Cleary.
RLPA Players' Champion Nathan Cleary. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary was also honoured during the pre-match festivities, taking the RLPA Players' Champion award for 2020.

Cleary beat fellow finalists James Tedesco, Luke Keary, Josh Papalii and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to take the prestigious peer voted award.

Rooster Hannah Southwell was crowned the Players' Champion in NRLW.

“It means a lot. I wasn’t expecting it at all because there’s a lot of great players, especially the other nominees,” Southwell told

“But the fact the players vote for it makes me feel really proud.”

Hannah Southwell on the charge for the Roosters during the NRLW grand final.
Hannah Southwell on the charge for the Roosters during the NRLW grand final. ©Robb Cox/NRLW Photos

Asked where she might put the award in her home, she said it would be travelling to a different residence.

“I’m giving it my mum and dad and they can put it wherever they like,” Southwell said.

“I try not to let these sorts of things get me too much. I just want to win every single game as they come up.”


Acknowledgement of Country

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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