Celebrating at the NRL CAPE Awards

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Grand Final Week – what a week it has been.

I have watched with joy this week as Queensland have celebrated the success of their two teams, the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys. I watched with pride (and some emotion) as Jonathan Thurston was crowned Dally M Medallist for the 4th time, making history. I have watched with excitement as fans have streamed through the doors of NRL Nation – celebrating our Clubs, the game of rugby league and everyone who is part of it.

It’s been very special to be part of the celebrations this week. The Dally M’s were an absolute celebration on Monday night and I am looking forward to spending the day at NRL Nation today.

However, last night was one of the most special nights of NRL Grand Final week.

Last night was the NRL Community and Player Education Awards for 2015. This was a celebration of all the people, from a grassroots level all the way up to our players who commit time, passion and energy to making our game the ornament that it is.

As a sport, rugby league is tremendously powerful and has the capacity to drive real change in our communities. We can debate whether our players should or should not be role models, but the reality is that they are and with being a role model also comes great responsibility. For some, this responsibility extends to simply behaving like a decent human being, but for others, they take this responsibility very seriously and this was on show last night as we celebrated the tremendous commitment that the NRL has to our communities. Just to paint a picture:

  • in February, all 16 NRL Clubs travelled 40,000km across rural and regional Australia and New Zealand to share well being messages with more than 250,000 students as part of the NRL Community Carnival;
  • the NRL’s State of Mind Campaign reached 531,595 people and 3.4 million people across all social media;
  • the Dream Believe Achieve Program has been delivered to nearly 10,000 students; and
  • the NRL has continued to support a number of key programs including Rugby League Reads, Tackle Bullying, NRL School to Work and In League In Harmony. 

The reach is enormous and the capacity to be a driver of change is huge.

And haven’t our Clubs been drivers of change? Through programs like ‘Eels Educate’ which is an educational outreach community program to ‘Roosters Against Racism’ which is a program which has worked hand in hand with 15 primary schools to educate 1,500 students on the impact of racism. It was so encouraging to see the programs which our Clubs are so passionate about with the St George Illawarra Dragons being especially recognised for their SCORE program which is program that has created an all-inclusive environment for children and youth aged 12-23 years living with various levels of disability.

Last night was also a celebration of education – something which is key to player welfare. For an NRL player, the reality is that they have a short career to maximise earning potential. It is crucial that as a game we have a responsibility to our athletes to ensure that when they finish their playing careers, they are able to have a career after football. Last night, with the announcement of the NYC Academic Team of the Year and NRL Academic Team of the Year. Now 4 out of 5 NRL players are engaged in further education or workplace training. Something of which I am extremely proud.

It was also very heartening to see so many players take the stage, at both an NYC level and NRL level and speak so eloquently and the impact that education has had on them.

It was an evening to truly be proud to be part of the rugby league community.

Congratulations to all the winners on the night. From the Ellenbrook Rabbitohs – a Rugby League Club in WA with a motto of ‘family, fun and community’ to Chris Kirkland, the Volunteer of the Year who is the President of the Collarenebri Bulldogs, captain-coach of the first grade team and coach of the two junior rugby league teams in the community.

I would also like to take a moment to congratulate the St George Illawarra Dragons who won a number of awards on the night, including George Rose and Joel Thompson winning the Harvey Norman Indigenous Academic Excellence Award, Bronson Harrison who was joint winner of the MGA Insurance Brokers Pasifika Academic Excellence Award, Joel Thompson and George Rose who were part of the NRL Academic Team of the Year, Jacob Host who was part of the NYC Team of the Year and winning the AAMI NRL Club Community Program of the Year with SCORE Dragons.

The Dragons are a Club that can truly be proud of their engagement with the community in 2015 – this is truly something to be celebrated. They should be very proud of what they have achieved this year.

Well done NRL – continue to be brave enough to be a driver for change in the communities that adore the game so much.

Love,

Ladies who League xxx