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NRL unveils inaugural Community Team of the Year

The National Rugby League is proud to announce the nominees for this year's Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year, which recognises the efforts of an NRL player who has not only achieved on the field, but has committed time off the field to community projects.

A player is nominated by their NRL club for going above and beyond in their involvement in charity work, youth development or community support.

In 2022, the Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year nominees will form the inaugural NRL Community Team of the Year, recognising each nominee as part of an elite cohort for their contribution off the field to community service.

Every nominee will receive $1,000 to give back to their junior rugby league club while the winner of the Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year will also receive additional prizing to give back to junior rugby league and their supporting charity.

Click here to cast your vote!

Established in 2007, the NRL Community Awards have become the most significant opportunity for our game’s unsung heroes to receive the recognition and thanks they deserve for the tireless work they do in the community. It also provides an opportunity for the NRL to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution that clubs, state leagues and both NRL and NRLW players make year on year.

The NRL invites and encourages fans to vote for their favourite nominee for this year's award. Voting will run from August 23 to August 30, with the winner of the fan vote to become the fourth finalist for the Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year as well as $3,500 to give to their junior rugby league club.

The four finalists for the Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year will be announced on September 28 in Grand Final Week.

NRL Head of Participation, Community & Game Development, Andrew Every, said the nominated players had all demonstrated exceptional community service. 

"As a sport, we have a powerful voice and platform to inspire and unite communities. Rugby League is fortunate to have strong community values and players across all levels of the game who are there in support of each other and their community.” Every said.

"Our 2022 Ken Stephen Medal – Man of the Year nominees are to be commended for their support and commitment to using their platform and profile to positively impact the community. This years’ nominees are among some of the best in our game when it comes to service and sacrifice off the field."

Click here to cast your vote!

The nominees for this year's Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year are:

Angus Crichton (Roosters)

Angus has been an instrumental leader in building the relationship between Ronald McDonald House Randwick and the Sydney Roosters, volunteering his time both in person and via FaceTime during Covid-19 protocols. Angus is a strong leader and mentor within the Indigenous community, working with Indigenous student leaders and presenting them with their Sydney Roosters School to Work polo shirts for the NRL Indigenous Youth Leadership Summit. Angus has proactively sought to make a positive impact on Indigenous communities. With his aim to give remote communities a voice, Angus launched an official charity – The First People Project, a mentoring program for Indigenous boys boarding in prestigious Sydney High Schools. Angus eagerly participates in all community- based initiatives and events, always with a smile and positive attitude. Eastern Suburbs Schools Community Carnival, the School to Work Campaign and Boots for Brighter Futures are some examples of events Angus has embraced. 

Brian Kelly (Titans)

A proud Bundjalung man, Brian is extremely active in the Titan’s Indigenous programs, such as the Gold Coast Titans Deadly Futures Program. In his own time Brian visits Year 10 students through this program and helps the students connect with their culture and discuss their aspirations. Brian assists with school NAIDOC days, Junior Rugby League Indigenous activations and shares the importance of his artistic, dance and cultural performance talents with Indigenous children. One example of leadership, and significant contribution to the community, is Brian’s work in the Gold Coast Titans League-ability program where Brian provides opportunities for disabled young adults to train and play Rugby League and he donates his old playing kits. Brian works passionately for his chosen charity, Koori Mail.

Christian Welch (Storm)

A major supporter and ambassador of the club’s ‘Women of Storm’ initiative, Christian promotes inclusiveness and equality for all. Christian not only attends Women of Storm events but is a guest speaker, inspiring all attendees with positive messages of equality. Whether spending time in schools in Uganda or delivering bags of boots, uniforms and training kits to remote communities in Australia, Christian brings energy, passion and a keen desire to make a positive difference. With injury impacting his game time in 2022, Christian has further increased his community work, being part of the club’s: The Good Friday Appeal, Starlight Foundation, RSL, Men of League, Dardi Munwurro, Victorian Women’s Trust and Donate Life. Christian attends events to promote these initiatives but also uses his own social media profile and networks for promotion.

Cody Walker (Rabbitohs)

Cody has a long and proud history championing the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Souths Cares and NRL community initiatives. This has included his dedication to the Nanga Mai Marri (Dream Big) Program, Aboriginal Employment Program, Deadly Youth Mentoring Program and Rabbitoh’s Wellbeing Program. He is passionately involved in numerous Indigenous focused initiatives, such as raising money for the Rising Warriors Program, guest speaking at NAIDOC week school celebrations and collaborating with indigenous leaders from multiple codes and industries in the Unity Dance in 2021. He was part of the ‘I Have a Dream’ Indigenous 2007 player photo recreation and led the Rabbitoh’s Indigenous jersey design. 

Delouise Hoeter (Broncos)

Education is important to Delouise. He regularly visits Waterford State School and supports the Zephyr Education Foundation. Before securing a contract with the Broncos, Delouise volunteered his time to be part of the Beyond the Broncos program at a Logan Leadership Day. Using his previous experience as a support worker, Delouise was a highlight of the day for the students and teachers, where he led leadership activities and encouraged students to step out of their comfort zone. Delouise has been an eager supporter of the Brisbane Bronco’s charity partner- Muscular Dystrophy Queensland (MDQ). As part of this partnership, Delouise joined the MDQ clients for a game of power-chair football, he showed genuine enthusiasm and excitement to be part of the event.

Dylan Brown (Eels)

Dylan is committed to Ronald McDonald House as a Charity Partner Ambassador. He consistently promotes his charity on social media and has donated his Fox Sports appearance fees directly to Ronald McDonald House. His direct donations and actions over the past three years has resulted in over $33 000 in donations, in practical terms this equates to over two hundred nights for families at Ronald McDonald House. Donating his boots to fans after the game and donating boots to another community partner, Giant Steps, are more selfless examples of Dylan’s giving nature. Dylan also is generous with his time, he is often the first to arrive and last to leave at charity events and always takes the time to speak to all stakeholders at community events from the CEO, parents, staff and children.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (Cowboys)

Passionate about encouraging education for all, as well as being an ambassador for NRL Cowboys House, Hamiso works closely with Weir State High School as part of the Cowboy’s Adopt a School program. Hamiso teaches Rugby League skills, sharing insights with students about relationships and encouraging students to connect to their culture. Hamiso spreads his work further, often travelling over 1 100 kilometres to visit schools, such as visiting Western Cape College to share the club’s Try for 5! message – encouraging students to attend school every day of the week. Focusing on health care as well as education, Hamiso travelled to Palm Island to combat the slow COVID-19 vaccination rates of Indigenous communities, encouraging vaccination.

Jayden Brailey (Knights)

As an advocate for animal welfare, Jayden recently supported a Dog Rescue Newcastle (DRN) foster care campaign. This not-for-profit organisation, run by a group of dedicated volunteers, urgently needed to recruit more foster families to meet the growing need for animal welfare. Jayden was quick to lend his support and share the benefits of fostering companion animals. Jayden also led the call to action from the Knights’ digital platforms onto the field, with DRN and a few four-legged friends, featuring in the Knights’ Fan zone and during pre-game on field interviews during Round 14. Jayden’s positive profile was a meaningful vehicle for DRN to lift the volume on their community call to action and the organisation’s presence a Knights’ game directly resulted in dogs being placed in caring foster homes.

Luke Garner (Wests Tigers)

Luke has a strong passion for inspiring the youth, with attendance at every Wests Tigers School Assembly Blitz over the past five seasons and leading the Wests Tigers Christmas Toy Drive at Liverpool and Campbelltown hospitals in 2019. Visiting high schools to advocate Wests Tigers Unite Harmony program, Luke was able to positively promote multiculturalism in his community. Luke is passionate about the inclusivity of people living with an intellectual or physical disability, in the game of Rugby League. He was instrumental in the Wests Tigers Wheelchair Rugby League – Come and Try Program and Varying Abilities anti-bullying and physical activity program for students living with an intellectual and/or physical disability. Luke’s passion for supporting the disability sector is also evident in his service to the WhatAbility Foundation, hosting modified rugby league sessions, in his own time.

Nicho Hynes (Sharks)

As a proud Wiradjuri man and Indigenous role model, Nicho delivered messages of health and wellbeing through the Sharks Deadly Choices program and attended NRL Youth Summit during NRL Indigenous round. Nicho also liaised with Aboriginal youth suicide prevention organisation, Cultural Choice Association, to encourage his teammates to wear boots, hand painted by students at a local Aboriginal youth hostel. Often seen proudly wearing his signature pink Mark Hughes Foundation beanie, Nicho supports the Mark Hughes Foundation as his charity. This year Nicho participated in the Big Three Trek on his scheduled day off, in support of the charity.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Bulldogs)

While working tirelessly on his recovery from injury, this Otahuhu Leopards NZ junior embraced this time off the field to give back to the Bulldogs community and support his charity, Canterbury Bankstown Hospital. Passionately involved in the Bulldogs Be Brave Round, Raymond raised awareness around mental health and highlighted various support networks within the community for those who may require additional support. Raymond was able to share his own mental health struggles and inspire his teammates and the Bulldogs community through his own story throughout this initiative. He also attended the NRL In League In Harmony Gala Day, participating in discussions on community work, handing out certificates to youth leaders and talking to the participants about setting goals and leaving a positive and impactful legacy behind.

Sean Keppie (Sea Eagles)

Sean’s passion for supporting, inspiring and including people in the community with varying disabilities is to be commended. Sean attends weekly music, art and sport classes at his charities WhatAbility, Heroes with Ability and Sunnyfield Disability Services, and arranged regular visits to training sessions and games. When COVID pandemic restrictions impacted Sean’s visits to his charities, Sean continued to make a positive difference by organising regular online visits, in his own time. More than a club commitment, Sean has a true passion for the disability sector. After his retirement from rugby league, Sean intends to seek employment in the disability sector to continue to make a significant, genuine difference.

Stephen Crichton (Panthers)

Passionate about student learning outcomes, Stephen regularly connects with the Panthers on the Prowl program helping disengaged students reconnect with learning. He is actively involved with the students, shifting their mindset toward school and learning. Stephen proudly gives back to his Mount Druitt community. His aim is to influence the next generation in a positive way. Rallying family and friends to help, Stephen runs high quality exercise coaching clinics to improve physical and mental health of men and woman in the community. Gaining popularity, up to fifty participants attend each training session, with the youth of Mount Druitt keen to train with their role model.

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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