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Sharon Jones tells a funny story about a referee, a game, and a misconception.

The tale is proof that Sharon’s persistence and dedication are just two of the reasons she is a NSWRL Regional Volunteer of the Year Award winner for the Newcastle and Maitland Region.

Jones was coaching the Windale Eagles JRLFC Under 11s against Central Newcastle when the referee shouted out from the middle of the field.

“I can still see it all now…something happened the referee yelled out, ‘I want to see the coach,’ so I walked out onto the field,” Jones said.

“He said, ‘Not you. I want the coach’ so I started to walk back.

“He asked for the coach again, so I turned around and walked back out to the middle. He pointed to one of the guys on the sideline and said, ‘Isn’t he the coach?’ and I said, ‘No he’s my trainer’.”

Sharon has become used to second looks – not so much these days. Now she just attracts admirers for the 36 years of volunteering she has willingly given.

“My husband was a referee and we moved into the area,” Jones said. “I got involved in the canteen and then one of my daughters started playing.

“A year later I started coaching because they couldn’t get any of the men to step up and coach the Under 7s mixed team.

“And because I couldn’t get any of the men interested, I had three women on my coaching staff.”

Sharon could easily handle the nickname ‘dream-maker’ as well. Windale is a suburb of Lake Macquarie, on the southern outskirts of Newcastle, and has a large under-privileged population.

Sharon has created a safety network where kids from struggling families can still be given boots to play in, help with registration fees, water and fruit to eat during training, and other things money can’t buy – like confidence and self-esteem.

“Windale is a low socio-economic area and Sharon understands this and does everything she can to keep these kids’ dreams to play football alive,” said the club’s first aid officer, Jennifer McInnes.

Sharon works full-time five days a week but spends most nights at training, and most weekends at games.

“My daughter Teagan is coaching this year,” Jones said.

“She’s got an Under 6s team at Windale and she’s got a little fellow who is shy. And I told her to let him hold onto your pants as you run with him. That’s helped a lot.”

“I’ve got kids now, whose parents I coached years and years ago. But I did retire from coaching this year although I still run the Mighty Midgets – just learning the basics of throwing the ball around, use a tackle bag, to prepare them for playing.”

Sharon has another daughter involved with the club’s administration, and her son-in-law is the Windale Eagles secretary.

“It’s such a small club, that it’s hard to get volunteers and workers so I’m bringing the family in!” she said.

“Last year I had five grandkids playing.”