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Hollis is proudly a Taree Red Rovers man

No-one needs to question the commitment Chris Hollis has for the Taree Red Rovers JRLC – and you can add his elderly parents to the list as well.

Hollis was this week awarded one of NSWRL’s highest honours in being named the 2023 Gordon Lowrie Memorial Volunteer of the Year.

Like most quiet achievers Hollis goes about his work each Saturday with a minimum of fuss.

“My day starts at 6am when I set the (two) fields up,” Hollis told after being presented with his award at the prestigious Brad Fittler Medal dinner at The Star Event Centre in Sydney.

“I put the ropes up, move the benches and chairs to the sideline, put pads on the goal posts, corner markers in, take out the tables with the hooters and sign-on sheets on top.

“Then the matches start and I’ll referee two or three games and then coach my team (Under-16s) at the end – I normally schedule them the last game so I can do both.

“It’s a long day but I absolutely love it.”

That kind of commitment was reinforced during the autumn rains of 2022, which flooded large areas of coastal NSW.

“The Council couldn’t get onto the fields with their heavy ride-on mowers, so I approached the Council myself saying there was a group of us who wanted to help cut the grass,” he said.

“They gave us the ‘Okay’ so I had my volunteers with their gum boots, mowers and whipper-snippers in hand. There was about 20 of us and it took a while to do two fields but we did it.

“We just had to get it done otherwise the fields would never dry out.

“Once they did, my dad got on the ride-on and mowed the lot in eight hours. He’d been a Council worker for 44 years so they let him.”

Hollis’s parents are in their late 70s but they too enjoy the benefits of Junior Rugby League – bringing a community together and seeing children succeed in a team sport while building friendships for life.

“I’ve been involved with Taree Red Rovers for a bit over 40 years … started as a player and hung around until Under-16s as my dad was involved,” Hollis said.

“Then I started coaching, refereeing and felt like I was putting something back into junior Rugby League, which I love.

“My only gripe is that it is hard to get volunteers ... my mum (Shelia) and dad (Dennis) are still going strong running the canteen and cooking the barbeque, marking the lines.

“So maybe this award might bring a few more volunteers out. We do have good helpers but they move on when their kids finish their junior footy.”

Hollis said the Red Rovers boasted players like True Blues Danny Buderus, Boyd Cordner and Latrell Mitchell.

“The area is full of talent. We had Danny Buderus, who I actually played with, before he moved to Forster … a legend like all the others who’ve come through the club,” he said.

“We’ve had some good products come out of Taree so hopefully there’s a few more to come.”

Meantime, Hollis said Taree was working hard on bringing through more Indigenous talent.

“We’ve got a fair population of Indigenous kids who want to play and we’ve got some indigenous coaches, which is really good,” he said.

“They are putting in and its’ great to see everyone pulling together.

“Rugby League is a team sport and we want everyone on our team.”

Currently there are about 200 members of the Taree Red Rovers – bolstered in recent years with the addition of girls Under-13s and Under-17s tackle teams.

“At one stage I was coaching both the 13s girls and 16s boys – I’m a bit of a multi-tasker but I’m born and bred in Taree and I love it,” Hollis said.

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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