2019 Holiday Inn CRL Community Award Winners Announced

Updated: August 24, 2019

Thomas ‘George’ Hickey (Dudley Redhead Magpies Junior Rugby League), Bianca Johnston (Muswellbrook District Junior Rugby League) and Tathra Sea Eagles Rugby League Club have been named CRL’s Volunteer, Women in League and Club of the Year for the 2019 season.

George is a Life Member of both Dudley Redhead JRLFC and Newcastle Rugby League for his 36 years of service in various volunteer and administrative roles.

George Hickey has held roles such as Team Manager, Secretary, Board Member and Chairman and his commitment was further recognised in 2018 when he received a CRL pin for his service. The Dudley Redhead Magpies JRLFC have had George manage some of their major projects which has allowed the club to grow into one of the regions’ most nurturing and welcoming football clubs, resulting in the club winning CRL Club of the Year in 2017.

Through political lobbying and seeking grants, George has overseen the redevelopment of the playing surface and the introduction of a Mini Field for the Under-6’s and 7’s. There have also been upgrades to the change rooms, a new electronic scoreboard and improved seating options.

Since the upgrades have been completed, George has helped ensure Dudley Oval is the base of the CRL Newcastle Women’s team. This has directly had a measurable impact in the ability of the club to attract their first ever Dudley Redhead female side which competes in the Under-14’s Newcastle competition.

Bianca is the Muswellbrook JRL Women’s League Coordinator for their six teams. Bianca’s hard work is one of the main reasons Women’s Rugby League is available to play in Group 21. She urged Muswellbrook to join the CRL 9’s competition in 2016 and house the Group 21 winter competition team in 2017 and single-handedly filled the teams, found coaches, managers, trainers and signed them up for the correct courses.

Girls at the Muswellbrook club have started to participate in Rugby League earlier because Bianca has started women’s tackle teams and they will have an avenue to continue playing. From Monday to Thursday Bianca is at every training session for her girl’s teams, attends League Tag games on Friday night and tackle games on Saturdays.

In 2018, Tathra Seniors had just re-joined the competition for the first time in four years with a Reserve Grade and League Tag team.

Just as the competition was about to commence, the town was devastated by a major bushfire that destroyed over 70 homes and was declared a National Emergency. Amazingly, the community gained strength from the bushfire that saw the Junior and Senior Rugby League Clubs unite.

As the 2019 season approached and the town was starting to rebuild, there was an influx of construction and trade jobs that boosted employment in the Tathra area. This enabled many young people that had moved away to return home because they were able to find work, many reconstructing their own families’ homes.

This allowed Tathra to field First Grade, Reserve Grade and League Tag teams this season. In 2019, the Junior Club proudly boasts a team in every male and female age group, despite the town having less than 1,500 residents.

CRL Chairman John Anderson praised the work of not only the nominees on the night, but the thousands of Country Rugby League volunteers across the state.

“The Holiday Inn CRL Community Awards are a great opportunity for us to thanks some of the amazing volunteers who dedicate their time to Rugby League across Regional NSW,” said Anderson.

“You cannot put a value on the work volunteers do because they are truly priceless to their local communities.

“Being nominated as an outstanding contributor in your region is a special achievement and all of our nominees can be extremely proud of their efforts.”

All winners will progress to the 2019 NRL Community Awards.

Click here to read all Volunteer and Club of the Year nominee biographies