'Bear' The Unsung Hero Of The Indigenous Community
Indigenous NRL players Ryan James, Kyle Turner, Jamal Idris and Alex Johnston are all products to come out of the NSW Under 16s Koori programs.
In his role as Indigenous Projects officer, long-time NSWRL staffer, Wests Tigers volunteer and mentor Steve Hall is a key figure in the development of Indigenous children and teenagers coming through rugby league pathways or local communities.
Hall is the true definition of a loving and caring family man. He has over 27 years of experience in coaching and mentoring and is held in high regard by all that know him.
Born and bred in the Northern NSW town of Walgett, Hall moved and played rugby league in Dubbo at a young age before taking up a role with the New South Wales Rugby League in Sydney prior to the Olympics in 2000.
Dubbed with the nickname "Bear", he was a non-smoker and non-drinker throughout his teenage and early adult years and prides his upbringing on the values and heritage within his family.
Hall has had a significant impact on a number of Indigenous players but also the Indigenous community as a whole. This is especially relevant for kids in the country, where he is constantly travelling to deliver programs and footy gear to Indigenous communities.
"It's a dream come true for me, with what I do," Hall told NRL.com.
"The last 15 years I've done all the Indigenous development so we're proud of the programs we've got running at the moment.
"I'm very community-driven and really enjoying helping people out so it's always an exciting time.
"A lot of the Indigenous players you see in the NRL have come through our systems right from the under 16s so you certainly get a buzz watching them come through."
Former Wests Tigers recruitment and development officer Warren McDonnell approached Hall for additional work at Western Suburbs, and he has most recently been with the Wests Tigers' game day operations department since 2012.
Hall is on the road to recovery this year after serious illness kept him in hospital for most of the 2016 season, but remains positive and upbeat of a return to the rugby league community in the near future.
"I've been a Tigers supporter since I was 10 years old and when I moved to Sydney I volunteered with them and haven't ever really left. After being quite ill last year I am back on my feet now and look forward to helping again," he said.
"Indigenous Round means everything to be recognised and for our people to be acknowledged for their contribution to the game, not only for the players but for the entire community and all that are involved.
"Having every team run around in an Indigenous-designed jersey this year is unbelievable, we're all blown away with how far rugby league has come in helping bring many cultures and our heritage together."
McDonnell was pleased Hall was earning the recognition he deserved and said his contribution to the Indigenous community was second to none across his 27-year career in rugby league.
"He's one of the best employees I've ever had," McDonnell told NRL.com.
"He works extremely hard, makes an effort to know all the people around him, and went out to all the schools for programs and everything went right.
"Nothing is ever a problem for him… he and his wife Marg took country kids into their home and really looked after not only Indigenous boys but everyone.
"They were both first to the grounds to set up and he is like a second father to a lot of the players. A champion bloke and still is, he'd be the first person to call if I needed something done."