Newcastle Knights player Connor Watson and New Zealand Warriors NRLW star Georgia Hale have been crowned the game’s Man and Woman of the Year, winning the 2020 Ken Stephen and Veronica White Medals.
Both Medals were awarded at the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final in front of almost 40,000 people at ANZ Stadium.
Watson was presented the Ken Stephen Medal by inaugural winner and ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce, while Hale received the Veronica White Medal from Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council Chair and former Jillaroo Katrina Fanning.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said both players and all nominees were exceptional ambassadors for rugby league.
“It is so fitting for us to showcase these two exceptional people on our biggest day of the year,” Mr Abdo said.
“So many of our players undertake a significant amount of work off the field – much of it done very quietly – tonight was our chance to acknowledge that work. Rugby League brings communities together and Connor and Georgia have led the way in 2020.
“COVID presented many challenges in 2020 but these players found a way to still make a positive difference.”
Watson and his family have been a driving force behind the Cultural Choice Association which supports the prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Youth Suicide. This year Watson led the Boots for Brighter Futures, with several Youth Justice Centres creating artwork for 56 pairs of boots which were worn during Indigenous Round and later auctioned off to raise funds.
“Connor has displayed leadership beyond his years. The work he is doing is having a positive impact on not only Indigenous communities, but society in general,” Mr Abdo said.
“Connor’s commitment to raising awareness of important Indigenous issues in an innovative way like Boots for Brighter Futures will benefit so many in the years ahead.”
Hale, the 2020 Young New Zealander of the Year, has used her own platform as an athlete who has represented her country in four sports.
The Warriors’ community coordinator routinely visits schools and has dedicated herself to helping children, rural communities, the intellectually disabled and a wide range of charities.
“Georgia has dedicated herself to helping others,” Mr Abdo said.
“She spends hours every week working with children, the disabled and particularly helping out in regional communities. She’s a remarkable athlete and an even more remarkable person.”
Watson was crowned the 32nd Ken Stephen Medallist ahead of finalists Reed Mahoney, Martin Taupau and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Hale was awarded the second Veronica White Medal ahead of Brisbane Broncos Captain Ali Brigginshaw, St George Illawarra forward Kezie Apps and the Sydney Roosters’ Simaima Taufa.
The 2020 Ken Stephen Medal is proudly supported by My Property Consultants.
The Veronica White Medal is proudly supported by Apprenticeship Careers Australia.
The Kayo NRL Community Awards 2020 acknowledges some of rugby league’s unsung community heroes for the tireless work they do for the game they love.
An overview of the NRL Community Awards can be found at www.nrl.com/community/awards.