It’s been a decade-long dedication to Rugby League in the far western NSW town of Wilcannia for Rhonda Hynch.
It used to be a one-team town – the Wilcannia Boomerangs – run by Rhonda’s father. She used to go and watch the games as a fan.
But about 10 years ago, with Rhonda making her own way in adult life, she thought there needed to be a second team. So, she started the Wilcannia Parntu Warriors and became their president.
Parntu means ‘fish’ in the local indigenous language. The jersey has the earth colours of orange, yellow and brown but Rhonda has insisted the word ‘Respect’ is prominently displayed on the kit.
“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.”
The NSWRL Indigenous Volunteer of the Year award is well-earned as Rhonda works tirelessly for both the men’s and women’s game.
She also runs the women’s tackling team, the Wilcannia Wildflowers. They beat the Menindee Twisted Sisters 48-8 in the Outback Rugby League (ORL) Grand Final on Sunday 25 July.
It was a case of double celebration for Hynch, with Parntu beating the Boomerangs 32-24 in the men’s ORL decider also on Sunday.
“I’ve worked very hard for a very long time with men of all ages – I’ve got 25 men in the Warriors with the youngest being just 17 years-old,” Hynch said.
“And now the women can be a part of it all so I’m enjoying that too. I love my weekends but there’s a part of me that will be glad to have a bit of a break once the footy season is over.
“This award has made me feel a bit teary. 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’.”