These 13 NRL stars have made outstanding contributions to their communities, they're the unsung heroes
We're used to seeing our favourite NRL stars shine on the field.
Whether it's the huge hits, inch-perfect passing, clever kicks or acrobatic efforts, their talent on the park speaks for itself.
But, if truth be told, it's not often we hear about their heroics away from footy.
During their day-to-day lives, there's so much NRL players do for their communities – and now a bunch of them are being recognised for their incredible acts if kindness.
The NRL has revealed the nominees for this year’s Ken Stephen Medal, a prestigious award given to the player who has made the most outstanding contribution off the field in their community.
13 clubs have put forward a single tar as their sole nominee with each player then forming the inaugural NRL Community Team of the Year.
These blokes really are the unsung heroes in their respective communities.
You can vote for your award winner RIGHT HERE.
Ken Stephen Medal: NRL Community Team of the Year:
1. Nicho Hynes – Cronulla Sharks
Regularly gives back to the community through grassroots junior league clinics as well as school and hospital visits. As a proud Wiradjuri man, Hynes also delivers messages of health and wellbeing through the Cronulla Sharks Deadly Choices program. Nicho worked with Aboriginal youth suicide prevention organisation Cultural Choice Association to encourage his teammates to wear boots which were hand painted by students at a local Indigenous youth hostel.
2. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow – North Queensland Cowboys
Passionate about encouraging education for all, Tabuai-Fidow often travels over 1000 kilometres to visit schools. He is an advocate in sharing the club’s Try for 5! message which encourages students to attend school every day of the week.Through his charity, NRL Cowboys House, the North Queensland star has personally committed to help inspire over one hundred Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island secondary students from remote North Queensland communities. He also played a big role in combatting the slow Covid-19 vaccination rates in Indigenous communities.
3. Stephen Crichton – Penrith Panthers
In him home community of Mount Druitt, Crichton runs exercise coaching clinics to improve physical and mental health of men and woman in the area. With culture and faith at the forefront of his thinking, the Penrith star also runs bible study groups and prayer sessions after games, encouraging opposition players to join in. Crichton regularly helps with the Panthers' Prowl program which aims to shift the mindsets of disengaged students in a bid to help them reconnect with education.
4. Brian Kelly – Gold Coast Titans
A proud Bundjalung man, Kelly is active in the Titans' Indigenous programs. In his own time, he visits Year 10 students to help them connect with their culture and discuss their life goals and aspirations. Through NAIDOC programs, he shares the importance of art, dance and cultural performance within Indigenous culture. Kelly is renowned for his work in the Titans' Leagueability program which provides opportunities for disabled young adults to play rugby league.
5. Delouise Hoeter – Brisbane Broncos
Prior to securing a contract with the Broncos, Hoeter leaned on his previous experience as a support worker by volunteering his time to help with the Beyond the Broncos program. He is also a big supporter of the Broncos' charity partner Muscular Dystophy Queensland and even joined in with a game of powerchair football.
6. Dylan Brown – Parramatta Eels
Brown is a Partner Ambassador for Ronald McDonald House and often promotes the charity on social media. A few months back, he donated his entire Fox Sports appearance fees directly to the cause. Over the past three years, his actions have resulted in over $33,000 in donations, which equates to over two hundred nights for families at Ronald McDonald House. A community partner in Giant Steps, the Eels five-eighth also regularly donates his footy boots after games.
7. Cody Walker – South Sydney Rabbitohs
Walker's work in the Indigenous community is incredible, regularly speaking as a guest during NAIDOC week at schools as well as collaborating with Aboriginal leaders from multiple codes and industries. He highlights the topic of Mental Health among athletes and non-athletes, often appearing on national television and radio to do so. An Indigenous All Stars captain, Walker is held in high regard as a role model by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and is involved in numerous schemes including the Nanga Mai Marri (Dream Big) Program, Aboriginal Employment Program, Deadly Youth Mentoring Program and Rabbitohs' Wellbeing Program.
8. Christian Welch – Melbourne Storm
A keen ambassador of Melbourne's ‘Women of Storm’ initiative, Welch pushes for inclusiveness and equality by regularly speaking at events. Also passionate about education, Welch has travelled far and wide to deliver boots, uniforms and training kit to kids – even going as far as Uganda. Plagued by injury in 2022, the Storm star has further increased his community work with The Good Friday Appeal, Starlight Foundation, RSL, Men of League, Dardi Munwurro, Victorian Women’s Trust and Donate Life. He has been a volunteer at the Salvos Soup kitchen for the last few years.
9. Jayden Brailey – Newcastle Knights
Brailey is an advocate for animal welfare and supports the Dog Rescue Newcastle foster care campaign, spreading its message across podcasts as well as social media. The Knights star has voiced the benefits of fostering animals and his work has seen a few cats and dogs make a cameo appearances in the Knights’ Fan Zone during games. Having completed his Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science, Jayden now gives up his time to visit schools and promote educational programs.
10. Sean Keppie – Manly Sea Eagles
Keppie has made a huge impact in the disability sector by attending weekly music, art and sport classes at his chosen. Incredibly, he also arranged for people with disabilities to attend training sessions and games throughout the season. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, he held regular online video sessions when he couldn't attend in person. When he retires from rugby league, the Sea Eagles star wants to find employment in the disability sector.
11. Raymond Faitala-Mariner – Canterbury Bulldogs
Passionately involved in the Bulldogs' Be Brave Round, Faitala-Mariner played a huge part in raising awareness around mental health and highlighted various support networks within the community for those who may require additional support – even opening up and sharing his own struggles. While attending the NRL's In League In Harmony gala day, the Dogs star held discussions about community work and talked openly about setting goals and leaving a positive and impactful legacy behind.
12. Luke Garner – Wests Tigers
Garner is passionate about the inclusivity of people living with an intellectual or physical disability and was instrumental in the Wests Tigers' Wheelchair Rugby League as well as other foundations. The Tigers fan favourite also assisted with the We Help Ourselves rehabilitation centre which assists adults experiencing the effects of drug, alcohol and communicable diseases with their physical activity and emotional support. Garner is a proud advocate of Beyond Blue, often seen wearing blue strapping tape during matches. But his participation goes far beyond that as he continues to showcase positive mental health messages within his community by getting involved in various campaigns.
13. Angus Crichton – Sydney Roosters
With the aim of giving remote communities a voice, the Chooks star launched his own charity - The First People Project - which is a mentoring program for Indigenous boys boarding in prestigious high schools. During the NRL Indigenous Youth Leadership Summit, Crichton presented young future leaders of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander background with their School to Work polo shirts. Through his hard work with students, the talented forward is recognised a strong mentor within the Indigenous community. He has been an instrumental leader in building the relationship between Ronald McDonald House Randwick and the Sydney Roosters.