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A woman with a decade-long passion for Rugby League in far western NSW and an official who pushed for the inclusion of an All-Abilities League Tag team on the NSW/Victorian border have been recognised in the 2021 NSWRL Community Volunteer Awards.

Rhonda Hynch was nominated for the NSWRL Indigenous Volunteer of the Year for her work with the Wilcannia Parntu Warriors while Ethan Schultz has taken out the NSWRL Inclusive Volunteer of the Year for his work at the Albury Thunder Rugby League Club.

Hynch founded and became President of the Warriors in the small town of Wilcannia, which has a population of around 550 people. She works with her partner Grant to run the club, including providing coaching, first aid and ground management.

The word Parntu means ‘fish’ in the local indigenous language and Hynch said the team’s jersey, in the earth colours of orange, yellow and brown, also had the word ‘Respect’ prominently displayed.

“That means respect for the opposite team, respect for your own brothers,” Hynch said.

“We don’t treat them as just a sports team. We treat them as family and we show them respect – because we want them to have that on and off the field."

Hynch’s award was well-deserved as she also runs the women’s tackling team, the Wilcannia Wildflowers.

“This award has made me feel a bit teary,” she said.

“I see the happiness on the men’s and women’s faces when they play and it all seems very worthwhile.

“We have a motto: ‘Win, Lose or Draw It Doesn’t Matter – Get Out There and Have Fun – Enjoy Your Day’.”

Schultz, who has a mild intellectual disability, was a driving force behind the establishment of the Albury Thunder’s All-Abilities League Tag team known as the ‘Lightning.’

He rarely misses a training session, provides video highlights for away games, operates the electronic scoreboard at home games, handles graphics and assists with game day set up and pack up.

“I saw the AFL club down here do something similar so I thought I may was well try to do something like it for rugby league,” he said.

“We usually play other community groups but Wagga Wagga Brothers have developed an All-Abilities team as well. They call themselves the Leprechauns.

“I would like to see this grow a bit more so we can run a mini-competition for ourselves.”

Schultz added he was humbled to be nominated for the award given his passion for the game.

“I’m actually really, really honoured – and a bit surprised actually,” Schultz said.

“I didn’t realise anyone would want to nominate me because I happily do the work around the club.”

The annual NSWRL Volunteer of the Year Awards recognises the invaluable contribution made by almost 30,000 people who give up their time as volunteers, officials, coaches and referees to ensure NSWRL is able to run Community Football at more than 700 clubs across the state.

The awards also acknowledge the support given in the wider community as well as to the Rugby League community.

The Volunteer of the Year awards will continue to be announced over the coming weeks with the Gordon Lowrie Memorial Award for the overall 2021 Volunteer of the Year to be announced on Monday 6 September.

Upcoming NSWRL Volunteer of the Year Awards:

NSWRL Grassroots Club of the Year 
NSWRL “Gordon Lowrie” Volunteer of the Year Award 
“Dennis Braybrook” NSWRL Referees Association Award (NSWRLRA)
NSWRL Indigenous Volunteer of the  Year – Rhonda Hynch, Wilcannia Parntu Warriors
NSWRL Inclusive Volunteer of the Year – Ethan Shultz, Albury Thunder
NSWRL Coach of the Year Male – Alan Brookman,Valley Dragons
NSWRL Coach of the Year Female – Pauline Wagner, Kyogle SRFLC

Regional Volunteer of the Year winners (overall winner chosen from this list)

Volunteer of the Year Bidgee Region 
Volunteer of the Year Western Region
Volunteer of the Year Northern Region
Volunteer of the Year East Coast Region
Volunteer of the Year Southern Sydney Region
Volunteer of the Year South Coast Region
Volunteer of the Year Western Sydney Region
Volunteer of the Year Broken Bay Region
Volunteer of the Year Newcastle and Maitland Region
Volunteer of the Year Central Sydney Region
Volunteer of the Year Macarthur Region