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Cronulla's Peter Matheson has claimed the prestigious NSWRL "Gordon Lowrie" Volunteer of the Year Award at tonight's (Tuesday, 27 September) annual NSWRL Volunteer of the Year Awards at the Waterview in Bicentennial Park, Sydney Olympic Park.

Rugby League’s heart and soul, the volunteers, were recognised for their invaluable contribution to the game, with Matheson winning the main award for more than 30 years service.

Matheson has devoted a large part of his life to Rugby League and has been a stalwart of St Josephs JRLFC Inc, undertaking every conceivable role including stints as club president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, coach, trainer and more.

St Marys’ Warren Smith was awarded the NSWRL "John Quinn" Award for services to Rugby League, while Garry Haines won the NSWRL "Les Matthews" Referee Volunteer of the Year Award.

“Tonight is one of the most special evenings on the NSWRL calendar,” NSWRL CEO David Trodden said.

“Without volunteers our great sport would simply not exist. It’s only with the help of these truly wonderful people does this game continue to grow.

“For these volunteers, it’s about what they can give, not what they can make of it. That’s the essential nature of these remarkable people.”

Complete list of winners at the 2016 Volunteer of the Year Awards night:

Balmain Junior Rugby League "George Thompson Memorial" Award - Tina Marsters and Ross Mignacca

Tina has performed an outstanding role in administration for both her Club and assisting another new Club by giving up her time to assist in all matters of registration, coaching and administration and game days.

As volunteer Manager to the Balmain Development Squads she has a wonderful rapport with the young players.

She also acted as a sports trainer when required, as well as taking on the role of Ground Official every Sunday for 19 Sundays this year.

Tina’s enthusiasm and love of the game and people is infectious and stands her tall as a champion volunteer.

Ross is like all dedicated volunteers, performing a number of roles for his Club and District. He is the current President of Carlingford Cougars and has, with the Committee steered the Club through its 50th anniversary and helped grow the club from small beginnings to one of the largest clubs with a strong reputation for a real family atmosphere.

Ross has spent a lot of time working with Game Development Officers on the education of all coaches across the district and was instrumental in setting up workshops.

He also took on the role of assisting the development of the District junior players.

Bulldogs Junior Rugby League “Sandy Steuerwald" Award - Steve Conwell

Steve is the ultimate reliable volunteer and works with the Junior Rugby League in a professional and cooperative manner.

Steve attends every Junior League meeting and on game day is a key figure at the Bass Hill Broncos, managing ground set up and often being the Ground Official.

Steve’s demeanour and professionalism creates a welcoming environment at Middleton Park.

Steve is always willing to help the junior league, host additional games or undertake any additional tasks.

Steve’s understated approach to managing the club creates a positive environment for Junior Rugby League.

Cronulla Junior Rugby League "Phil Murray” Club Volunteer of the Year Award - Peter Matheson

Peter Matheson is the epitome of everything that makes Rugby League the greatest game of all. 

For more than 30 years Peter has been an absolute stalwart of the St Joseph’s club during which time he has undertaken every conceivable role that comes with being involved with a Junior League club.

There is no job that Peter has not done and he continues to do it with no end in sight.

Anyone who has dealt with Peter instantly recognises the measure of the man, a true gentleman, with a sense of fairness, who is committed and passionate about the game and his club.

Illawarra Junior Rugby League "Col and Billie Purcell” Award - Peter Bartley

Peter has been a passionate member of the Collegians Illawarra Junior Club for the past 46 years; starting out as a junior player continuing into the grade ranks until 1981 where he received the Clubman of the Year award in 1980.

He then moved on to the Collegians Board of Directors and the Illawarra Board of Management for a number of years, where he was rewarded with Life Membership to the Collies in 2010 and Illawarra Junior League in 2014.

Peter’s involvement for a large period of his life has been one reason why the Collegians Club is currently a very dominant force in the Illawarra Junior League competition.

Manly Warringah District Junior Rugby League Football Club’s "Phil Murray” Club Volunteer of the Year - Michael Birtwhistle

Michael has been an active member of the Avalon Bulldogs Junior Rugby League Club for more than 10 years serving as President for the past five years.

He has a hands-on-role in all club activities including preparing the ground on match days, assisting in the canteen, rallying the club volunteers and is also the club delegate to the Manly Junior Rugby League.

Michael also assists in fundraising activities with the club which support various community events and raises awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.

He has a strong club and community commitment.

North Sydney Junior League "Bruce Walker” Volunteer of the Year - Bruce Walker

Bruce “Goldie” Walker has been involved in Rugby League at every level from playing first grade, Queensland and Australia to starting up a new club in the North Sydney Junior League in 2015.

Bruce is the president of the Ku-ring-gai Cubs and is the founder of this club in 2015.

He also performs duties including, Ground Manager, Coach, First Aid Officer, Canteen co-ordinator and, he does all of this even though he doesn’t have a family member playing in the club. 

Parramatta Junior Rugby League Volunteer of the Year Award - Natisha Sarkis 

Natisha has contributed many hours of work to her club and the game of rugby league through her role as club secretary.

Natisha ensures that all aspects of her role are done efficiently and professionally.

She is new to the role of club secretary but has been involved in junior league for many years. She never complains or objects to what is required of her she just gets in and does it.

Penrith District Oak Volunteer of the Year Award - Keleti Peleti

Kel has been involved in the Emu Plains JRLFC for the past 10 years and has long exemplified a level of commitment to Emu Plains Club that serves as a model to others.

Kel looks after numerous tasks and roles within the club which starts with walking 6km from home to the field, marking the lines for three fields, coaching of the under 14s Div 3 side and running the water for Reserve and A Grade teams on the weekend.

He also referees mini games when required, acts as a ground manager, cooks the BBQ and then cleans up all the rubbish before he leaves.   

St George “Robert Stone” Memorial Award - Cathy Crowe

Cathy began her association within St George Junior League in 1993, initially as a keen parent watching her son play for St Joseph’s Club the smallest club in St George. 

Being a parent wasn’t enough for Cathy. She joined the committee of St Joseph’s to help develop the Club. A few years later she did the same at Penshurst. 

Cathy went on to be elected Secretary of Penshurst RSL, providing great leadership and stability within the Club. During this time, she also became a trainer for the Jersey Flegg side.

In 2004 Cathy was elected to the position of Secretary with the St George Junior League, a position which she still holds today.  Cathy spends countless hours performing this volunteer role while also maintaining a fulltime job looking after NSWRL Referees and family commitments. 

In recognition of her passion and commitment to rugby league, Cathy has been awarded Life Membership of St George Junior League, Life Membership of St George District Rugby League (1st female), as well as Life Membership of NSW Junior League Association.

She is an absolute legend and St George Junior League is the lucky beneficiary for having such a great person involved.

South Sydney Junior Award - Jann Bellieco

Jann has worked as a grounds person at Pioneers Park in season 2016 every Sunday, from April to August.

She also has been the Manger of Junior Development teams, including managing the playing groups on tours to Forster and the Snowy Mountains.

 Jann has held a number of roles for both her local club, the Maroubra Lions, as well as the Juniors.  

Western Suburbs “Jim Medway” Club Person of the Year Award - Rachael Ingrey

Hinchinbrook JRLFC may not be the biggest club within the district but they are a club that is retaining players and volunteers each year which is placed in an area where the demographics have changed dramatically over the past 5 years.

This in itself is a great achievement and is a direct result of how Rachael as Club Secretary is providing the children and volunteers in the club and the community with a positive influence.

Rachael lives and breathes the NSWRL values, and is always willing to help in any way.

NSWRL District Representatives Volunteer of the Year - Steve Nielsen

Steve has been a volunteer worker in Rugby League for more than 20 years.

He was first a volunteer scoreboard operator for the Norths Junior League Club in the Illawarra, and has held various positions as Team Manager, Assistant Secretary, Water Runner and any other role that has been required to be filled in both the Norths and Dapto Clubs.

He has devoted innumerable hours to promoting the best the game has to offer – opportunity, team work, sportsmanship and responsibility.

NSWRL Grassroots Club of the Year Award - Campbelltown Warriors JRLFC

The Campbelltown Warriors work tirelessly to raise funds so they can financially assist under privileged families with their registration fees to ensure that all children are given the opportunity to play their sport of choice.

The club is committed to providing good facilities for their members and have worked really closely with local council and local MPs to obtain grants to upgrade lightning and new facilities.

The Campbelltown Warriors, headed up by their President Scott Galvin, introduced a new initiative called ‘The Boots in Macarthur’ which is designed to allow young adults and future leaders to increase their awareness of the importance of good decision-making around alcohol and drugs by creating opportunities to directly service community members who have found themselves in need through misfortune or bad choices. 

Indigenous Volunteer of the Year Award - Eunice Grimes

Eunice Grimes is dedicated to helping young Indigenous players, especially women, achieve their goals.

Eunice is a former NSW and Australian representative player, and can still be seen weekly playing with the Redfern All Blacks women’s team in the Sydney Metro competition.

What sets Eunice apart from other players is the work she does off the field. She is the patron of the PCYC NSWRL Nations of Origin and gives up her time each year for the event, where she coaches and mentors many of the young Indigenous players.

Eunice has also been instrumental in building a pathway for Indigenous women, working with the NSWRL for the first time this year to identify a number of girls from the Nations of Origin and inviting them to be part of a program to work with them on their skills both on and off the field. Media Volunteer of the Year - Tony Dosen

Triple H FM radio's Tony Dosen is one of the most dedicated and knowledgeable callers of grassroots Rugby League in New South Wales. A regular commentator across Intrust Super Premiership NSW, Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield competitions and the host of a number of rugby league radio programs, Dosen in 2016 has also written in-depth weekly wraps for the New South Wales Rugby League website. His contribution to the game across many levels and many years is significant.

NSWRL Respect Award - Cromer Kingfishers 

In a bid to eliminate offensive behaviour on and off the field, the New South Wales Rugby League implemented a Junior League ‘Respect Campaign’ across all Junior Leagues in 2016.

This was to ensure all players, volunteers and parents understood and acted in a manner that displayed the core values of the game.

The 2016 Respect Award is for the club that was most actively involved in this campaign.

In some way shape or form, every weekend the Kingfishers were involved in and promoting this great initiative.

Key off field messages were regularly used,  #Respect and #letthemplay, with players, coaches and match officials all shaking hands before the start of matches.

NSWRL Inclusive Award - Bob East

Bob was nominated by Rugby League 4 All but is involved to some degree in all of the Inclusive Leagues.

His contributions have included being the driving force for the creation and implementation of the inclusive Rugby League committee, facilitating an opportunity for the associations to come together to have a united voice.

Bob worked tirelessly with each of the committees to produce and implement their constitutions, meet all of their legal requirements and to foster a professional working board.

He also undertook the role of Judiciary chairman for the various leagues again ensuring a professional and constitutionally correct procedure was followed.

Bob was also one of the drivers for the City Vs Country pathway that facilitated athletes from the various leagues be included in the representative games.

No task is too big or too small for Bob and he represents all that is good with Rugby League.

NSWRL Harmony Award - David Lakisa (personal), Africa United (club)

FouDavid was a founding member of the Harmony Cup at New South Wales Rugby League and has developed research to improve cultural practice when working with Pasfika communities.

He has also been involved as a local Junior League coach and volunteer for the past five years.

Established in 2011, Africa United entered their first competition at the Redfern Harmony Nines.

For the past six years the club has reached out to youth from African backgrounds and provided a place for them to develop their pride for their culture through the game. The goal is to use Rugby League as a vehicle to promote positive social integration of newly arrived migrants.

Graduating players include: Obed Karwhin (currently under 20s Tigers and open player for Africa United); and Jayden Okunbor (Bulldogs under 20s ).

NSWRL "John Quinn" Award for services to Rugby League Award - Warren Smith

Warren Smith is one of Rugby League’s true gentlemen!

He has held many roles in Rugby League clubs for almost 50 years, most of these being with St Mary’s.

Warren was elected to the position of Secretary of the St Mary’s Junior Rugby League in 1985, at a time when the Club had only 14 teams and no sponsors. The clubs now has 44 teams and a large number of sponsors

Warren’s desire is not only for juniors to enjoy the great game of Rugby League but to learn about life, respect and appreciate what they have and experience other cultures.

Warren is extremely supportive of the NSWRL, always allowing us use of the St Mary’s Leagues facilities for community and school events. And on these days Warren is the first person there and the last to leave.

Warren still, on the odd occasion, can be seen wearing a pair of gold shorts in the Masters Rugby League.

Warren Smith, an absolute legend, both on and off the field.

NSWRL "Les Matthews" Referee Volunteer of the Year Award - Garry Haines

Gary Haines is the President of the Penrith Referees Association, and for the past 12 months, as secretary also, has been the driving force behind the Association’s 50th anniversary celebrations which were held in August.

Gary has been an active Life Member of the Association for more than 40 years and has overseen the rise of many young referees through the refereeing ranks.

NSWRL "Gordon Lowrie" Volunteer of the Year Award - Peter Matheson

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales 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.