Bundaberg’s Neil Redfern has been awarded the Queensland Rugby League V-Power Shell Volunteer of the Year award for 2021.
Holding the position of chairman of Northern Districts Rugby League for the past five years, Neil has worked tirelessly to ensure the competitions run without a hitch.
While his journey to Northern Districts Rugby League wasn’t one that he saw coming, he said it was one that he was glad had happened.
“My wife and I packed up our home in New South Wales in 2013 and decided we would go on an adventure around Australia in a caravan but we got as far as Bundaberg and haven’t made it further,” Neil said.
“With the 2013 floods hitting, we got caught in Gin Gin for a while so we helped out the community there at the showgrounds and got word of jobs going at the rowing club at Bucca.
“My wife and I became the caretakers of the Bundaberg Rowing Club and enjoyed every minute working with the club and made some long-term friends.”
During their time at the rowing club, Neil’s love for Rugby League and passion for photography got the better of him as he started to explore the local competition and take photos in his spare time.
“I got curious about what was happening in local footy because I have always had a bit of a passion for sports photography,” he said.
“12 months later I got involved with the Northern District Rugby League and have been there since.”
The award, which recognises a volunteer who has shown exceptional service to the game and one who has made a measurable difference in their community and actively displays the QRL values, was awarded to Neil this week.
Volunteering around 50 hours a week to Northern Districts Rugby League, Neil said he loved being challenged and improving the opportunities provided by clubs where he could.
“It is my passion and constantly being challenged personally to try and set the benchmark as high as we can is what keeps me going,” he said.
“Sport is sport and every athlete wants to be out there to cross the line or win the game but sometimes clubs need to also take a bit of that competitiveness to challenge themselves to set that benchmark a little bit higher.
“This is not only about how the games look but the governance within their clubs which makes the game better.”
When he found out he had won the award Neil said he was very appreciative of the acknowledgment which was an honour to himself and his family.
“It has been overwhelming, not just from Northern Districts but also from the other regional Rugby League clubs and even from Queensland Rugby League,” he said.
Queensland Rugby League Managing Director Robert Moore said people like Neil helped to keep the game going for our local communities.
“The commitment Neil has shown to both Northern Districts and the greater rugby league community is exemplary and an inspiration to all of us,” Robert said.
“Volunteers like Neil are the real heroes of rugby league. Neil takes on many tasks beyond the standard duties as chairman of the league and for this we can’t thank him enough.
“Neil is a deserving recipient of the Queensland Rugby League Shell V-Power Volunteer of the Year award. Congratulations once again.”
With the ever growing demand for volunteers continuing within the local clubs around the region, Neil encourages everyone to put their hand up and give it a go.
“My commitment and passion are not a benchmark for others but instead it is something I do to drive the go forward of these clubs as much as I can for the game itself,” he said.
“There are so many different jobs to be done but there are so few volunteers out there.
“I think the main barrier is people getting a bit hesitant because they see senior aged people administrating and think that the benchmark and the knowledge that they don’t have at the time is too daunting.”
Neil said that everyone who volunteered brought new skills that always assisted in improving the services a club could provide.
“I encourage everyone to take small steps in and offer what they can with their skillset and it may be something they can contribute in a manual way or technical way; it may be ways that they have got a good skillset in giving financial advice,” he said.
“There is something that everyone can contribute and while they don’t have to contribute the world, every small bit takes the weight off someone else’s shoulders.
“We know everyone is quite time poor these days but there are areas that everyone can contribute in and make their games and their sports a little bit better by being there.”
Neil will represent Queensland in the NRL Community Award's Volunteer of the Year category, due to be announced next month.