National Rugby League honours Community heroes

The National Rugby League (NRL) today announced the Lithgow Bears Rugby League Football Club as the game’s Grassroots Club of the Year and Joseph Chidiac Volunteer of the Year in the Kayo NRL Community Awards 2020.

Today’s announcement honours the very best people in rugby league, the game’s unsung heroes who have given up their own time to grow the game, assist the community and create assistance for communities in need.

The Kayo NRL Community Awards 2020 takes on added importance this year given the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and devastating bushfires in the community.

Grassroots Club of the Year, the Lithgow Bears, became one of the saviours of the region during the summer bushfire crisis, donating their dressing rooms for the use of showers for those who lost homes. Their grounds became makeshift refuge areas for residents, pets and wildlife as fires destroyed the region.

Bears participants also helped fight fires and rebuild the community after the bushfires were extinguished. Despite the bushfires and COVID-19 the club registered 50 male and female teams in the Midwest Cup Competitions. The Grassroots Club of the Year was proudly sponsored by “Your local club”.

Mr Chidiac, volunteer of the year winner, is a board member of Wheelchair Rugby League, has devoted 25 years to the game, in particular creating and growing Wheelchair Rugby League competitions. He was a driving force in establishing Wheelchair Rugby League competitions initially in NSW followed by Queensland and now the Northern Territory.

Mr Chidiac has also taken an active role developing Wheelchair Rugby League State of Origin, the Wheelchair Rugby League International Test Series and Australia’s involvement in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the Kayo Community Awards 2020 highlighted the very best in our game.

“We read about our heroes on the field in the Telstra Premiership, but these awards acknowledge our unsung heroes – the people and clubs that make a difference not only to rugby league but to our communities in general,” he said.

“Rugby League is part of the social fabric of so many communities because of the work our volunteers do. Right across Australia our grassroots rugby league club volunteers are sacrificing their own time to help others. The Kayo Community Awards is recognition of their contribution to the rugby league community.”

Mr Abdo congratulated the Lithgow Bears for the leadership the club showed during the bushfires.

“The bushfires devastated so many regional communities and in Lithgow’s hour of need it was the Lithgow Bears who were there for their community, providing sustenance and shelter for people who had been dislocated from their homes. The club will forever hold a special place in the community.”

Mr Abdo said Mr Chidiac’s commitment to growing Wheelchair Rugby League had enhanced the lives of people with disabilities across three states.

“Joseph is an inspiration. He has created opportunities and changed lives for so many people. Without his efforts Wheelchair Rugby League wouldn’t be where it is today. He is a trailblazer in our game and is a shining example of what you can achieve with remarkable dedication, care and compassion,” he said.

Grassroots Club of the Year 2020 – Finalists

Lithgow Bears Rugby League Football Club (Western Region) WINNER

Central Charlestown Junior Rugby League Football Club (Newcastle)

Dirranbandi Junior Rugby League (Balonne)

Volunteer of the Year 2020 – Finalists

Joseph Chidiac, Wheelchair Rugby League Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, North Queensland, and Northern Territory) WINNER

Clinton Begg, Mackay and Districts Rugby League Referees (Mackay)

Kristine Laird, Kiama Knights Junior Rugby League Football club (Kiama)

Stephen Gear, Mareeba Junior Rugby League (Cairns)

Mr Chidiac, volunteer of the year winner, is a board member of Wheelchair Rugby League, has devoted 25 years to the game, in particular creating and growing Wheelchair Rugby League competitions. He was a driving force in establishing Wheelchair Rugby League competitions initially in NSW followed by Queensland and now the Northern Territory.

Mr Chidiac has also taken an active role developing Wheelchair Rugby League State of Origin, the Wheelchair Rugby League International Test Series and Australia’s involvement in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

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