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A father of seven and a mother of four, who is the NSW Rugby League’s longest-serving Junior League administrator, have been honoured with the top awards at the 2018 NSWRL Volunteer of the Year Awards for dedicating a combined total of almost 60 years’ service to the game.
Norman Towells, of the Five Dock RSL Junior Rugby League, has been named the NSWRL “Gordon Lowrie” Volunteer of the Year, while the Western Suburbs District Chief Executive Julie Luke, has won the NSWRL Service to Rugby League “John Quinn” Award. The Grassroots Club of the Year was won by Milperra Colts (Canterbury-Bankstown District).
A total of 11 awards were presented in front of almost 300 guests at Waterview in Bicentennial Park, Sydney Olympic Park on Thursday (20 September), on a night that celebrated and acknowledged the valuable contributions of the heart and soul of the game, the volunteers, across a wide variety of areas.
NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden said: "The annual NSWRL Volunteer of the Year Awards night is about celebrating and acknowledging the hardworking Junior League volunteers who have given their time, without an expectation of reward or recognition, to make the 2018 season such a success.
“It is only with the commitment and passion for the game of these truly wonderful people that Rugby League continues to grow and prosper in New South Wales.
“The participation figures just released are testament to that. For the first time in five years participation in NSWRL competitions has increased (up 5.5 per cent) and retention is above the national average, which means our volunteers and staff are creating a positive environment for participants to get involved – and stay involved – in our game.”
Norman Towells’ commitment to grassroots Rugby League over 29 years through the Five Dock JRL and the wider Balmain District JRL earned him the prestigious Volunteer of the Year Award, which was selected from the 12 District nominees.
“This is totally unexpected; I have won this acclamation for doing what I thought was something everyone did,” said Mr Towells.
“I didn’t know anything about Rugby League until one of my sons started playing 29 years ago … the rest is history.
“I love being involved because of the lifelong friends you make and the influence you can have on children and players through sport.”
Like Mr Towells, Julie Luke has dedicated almost three decades of her life to Rugby League, and she was equally “blown away” with winning the NSWRL Service to Rugby League “John Quinn” Award, which recognises outstanding contribution to the game over more than 20 years.
“I am not usually caught for words … it’s a great honour,” Ms Luke said. “I got involved because I have four sons.
“I work as a paid administrator but this game does not work without all of the people in this room, the volunteers.”

NSWRL Indigenous Volunteer of the Year Award Valuable and significant contribution to Indigenous Rugby League Perry Johnstone (Alexandria Rovers, Indigenous programs including Koori Under 16s and Harmony Cup) Media Volunteer of the Year Award Outstanding contribution in a volunteer media capacity Mario Facchini (photographer, freelance and Newtown Jets)
NSWRL “Les Matthews” Referee Volunteer Award An individual who contributed most to grassroots referees Steve Clapson (NSWRLRA district coaching coordinator)
NSWRLRA Dennis Braybrook Memorial Award For services above and beyond in refereeing in district grass-roots referees associations Gary Haines (Penrith Referees Association)
NSWRL Women in League Award Outstanding contribution by a female volunteer to their club and community Nellie Hage (Enfield Federals)
NSWRL Inclusive Volunteer Award Significant contribution to the game through Wheelchair Rugby League, Physical and Intellectual Disability Rugby League Patricia Spennati (NSW Physical Disability Rugby League)
NSWRL Harmony Award Valuable contribution to cultural Rugby League programs Makareta Taylor (NSW Maori Rugby League)
NSWRL Respect Award Outstanding achievement in the NSWRL RESPECT campaign Carlingford Cougars, Balmain District
NSWRL Service to Rugby League “John Quinn” Award Valuable contribution of an individual, with more than 20 years’ service, to their club and community Julie Luke (Western Suburbs District)
NSWRL Volunteer of the Year “Gordon Lowrie” Award An award for the most outstanding volunteer, chosen from the 12 JLA District nominees for the volunteer who has made a valuable contribution Norman Towells (Five Dock RSL Junior Rugby League)
NSWRL Grassroots Club of the Year Valuable contribution of a grassroots club to Rugby League and the community Milperra Colts, Canterbury-Bankstown District
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.

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