Auckland-born Theresa Tasaico was almost lost to Rugby League growing up in the rugby union stronghold of New Zealand but thankfully she wasn’t as the Riverwood Legion JRLFC and the St George District league fans in southern Sydney would definitely be lost without her.
Meeting future husband Daniel, when she was 17 and on a trip to Australia, has started an incredible chain of activity at two clubs – Hurstville United and then Riverwood Legion – which has led to Theresa being named the NSWRL Gordon Lowrie Volunteer of the Year for 2021.
“I got into it because of my boys Reilly and Joshua,” Tasaico said.
“I love it but it’s been hard with COVID-19 because I’ve actually got free time on my hands now – I’m asking myself ‘What should I be doing?’
“There’s always housework to do so that’s been good, but I feel like a piece is missing.”
That’s because she has done so much already. Theresa started at Hurstville United, watching her two sons play footy. She then found herself becoming a Team Manager, a Committee Member and the Club Treasurer.
At the end of the 2017 season, Theresa and Daniel were asked if they would like to help restart a club, in the St George District, that had been bereft of juniors and seniors for several years.
In 2018, Riverwood Legion JRLFC was reborn - Theresa was Club Secretary, and Daniel, the President. That year Riverwood fielded three teams, Under 6s, Under 7s and Under 17s. In 2021 there were nine teams, which included three female league tag sides.
Theresa has been, or still is, Team Manager with the St George Junior League Development Squads (six years), Tonga NSW Harmony Cup Squad, NSWRL Girls 16s Harmony Cup sides (one year), St George Girls 15s Monarch League (two years), St George Lisa Fiola Girls 16s (one year), and the St George Dragons Tarsha Gale Side (four years including the 2021 Premiership side).
Somewhere amongst all that she has been Riverwood Legion Club Secretary for the past four years and is also the St George Junior Rugby League Football District Vice-President.
“The club is growing,” she said. “I have a great team of strong women and men around me. It all makes it worthwhile when you the see the little ones play – they are so cute, and they love it.
“The camaraderie between them, and running around with their mates, it’s just great.”
Theresa puts in over 20 hours a week volunteering at Riverwood Legion. Sponsor Club Rivers has been solid throughout the down times, including COVID-19, and its funds have helped build a new amenities block as well as help with expenses like uniforms and registrations.
Theresa was nominated for the NSWRL award by Gary Faafua, who said her efforts were remarkable.
“She and her team have brought together not one, but three female teams and for a small club that’s amazing, especially in the St George District,” Faafua said.
“Cultural diversity is always an opportunity for inclusiveness, unity and respect, which is how the club is building its own culture.
“She is also looking at trying to put together a Disability Team in 2022. Her positivity and humour is infectious to those who know her. Many of the players and parents say how easy she is to get along with, and rarely gets frustrated with a problem she is trying to fix.
“Inclusiveness, positivity, unity, discipline and respect, are only a few words that can describe what she has brought and continues to bring to Rugby League over the last 10 years.”