Weekender our olympians

Samantha Schmidt's Paralympics dream comes true

Emma Reid

Picking up a discus for the first time at the age of five Samantha Schmidt’s life revolves around her passion for athletics, and it’s this appetite that has her representing Australia at the Paralympics.

This week Samantha’s dream to be on the world stage competing against some of the best para-athletes came true as it was announced the Indigenous Bundaberg teenager would be heading to Tokyo as part of the Australian Paralympics Athletics Team.

The cerebral palsy athlete nabbed the title of national champion for open women para discus and javelin in 2018, and she was chosen for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic discus shadow squad last year before the COVID-19 pandemic put them on hold.

For Samantha, and her parents Gemina Moore and David Schmidt, it seems like a lifetime ago when she won her very first Australian title competing on the national stage, for the first time, at the age of 14.

Now at 19, Samantha hopes to not only break her own discus official record of 33.66m, but also create a world record at this year’s Paralympics.

“When I was younger my dream was to go to the Olympics, but I had a lot of people saying, ‘you won’t make it’ or ‘you won’t be able to go because of your disability’,” Samantha said.

“What they call a disability, I call it a challenge – because it is a challenge – it’s not something that everyone out there can go through.

“I think of it this way, you do something and if you can’t do it because of your disability then it’s a challenge, I have had many challenges in my life, but I have overcome them.”

Samantha’s mother Gemina Moore said as the team was officially announced she was the proudest mother on earth.

“She’s going in as an underdog. Coming from her background, and what she has been through, to now achieving her dreams is amazing,” Gemina said.

“There are no words to describe how we all feel. It’s just great her dream has finally come true.

“We want to thank Paralympics Australia and Athletics Australia who have given us so much support to get Sam ready.

“They’ve pulled out every opportunity, to get her emotionally and mentally prepared for the separation as they knew we wouldn’t be able to go with her because of COVID.”

Samantha will compete in the open women abluent 38 discus at the Tokoyo Paralympics, and she will head to Japan with her teammates at the end of August.

She said the news of Brisbane hosting the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics was outstanding, and her eyes were set on competing on home soil in front of all her family and friends.

The Paralympics will be held in Tokyo from 24 August to 5 September. For more information click here.

Bundaberg’s Rheed McCracken headed to Tokyo

Georgia Neville

After a year of ups and downs, Bundaberg’s Rheed McCracken is headed to Tokyo to compete in the 2021 Paralympic Games.

After a year of ups and downs, Bundaberg’s Rheed McCracken is headed to Tokyo to compete in the 2021 Paralympic Games.

Competing in the 100m and 800m sprints, this will be his third Paralympic Games having competed previously in both the London and Rio Games.

While there has been no lack of challenges in the lead up to the games, Rheed said he is excited to be putting on the green and gold again and representing Australia.

“The thing I am looking forward to the most is being able to represent Australia again, wear the uniform with pride and put in my best performance,” Rheed said.

“These games will be extremely restrictive compared to previous years but I am okay with that because at the end of the day I am grateful we can go and compete.

“The games are going to go ahead so we are full steam ahead with preparation and ready to go, we have everything in place and we are really excited for it.”

Having won silver in the past, Rheed’s main goal in Tokyo is to take the next step up to the gold medal.

“In the past few games, I have just come up short with the silver medal in the 100m so for me it is that step up and the gold medal,” he said.

“I would love to take that top step and we have put absolutely everything we have into it so what will be will be.”

Rheed said the biggest challenge will be the unknown, not having been able to compete in an international competition since 2019 means no one is sure just where the benchmark sits for these games.

“Usually, we would have a range of competitions to prepare, but we are going into the unknown and we have no idea how ready anyone else is or how ready we are,” he said.

“My last international major event was in 2019 at world championships in Dubai and I was able to win silver.

“We can sit here and say we are as ready as we can be but we don’t know what the rest of the world is doing so we are just trying to get as fit and ready as possible.”

The 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games start on Tuesday 24 August.

Isaac to make Olympics swimming debut on Sunday

Ashley Schipper

Bundaberg's Isaac Cooper will make his debut in Tokyo on Sunday when he competes in the men’s 100 metre backstroke as part of the Australian Olympic Swim Team.

The 17-year-old swimmer will take to the pool for the heat event at 8.19 pm Tokyo time and 9.19 pm Australian time.

If he makes it to the semi-final, he will race again on Monday and, if further successful, will leap into the finals event on Tuesday before possibly being picked for the mixed medley event later in the week.

Isaac's Dad Alan Cooper said he was overjoyed that his son had made it to the Olympics, with the news initially coming as a shock to both of them.

“Isaac went to the trials just to see where he stood among the other swimmers, to see how he compared and to maybe aim for the Commonwealth Games next year,” he said.

“He hadn't been through the proper process and at the time, wasn't even considered in the top 100 potentials for the team.

“We were blown away and so proud when he was picked for the Olympics.”

Alan said Isaac had a passion for swimming and was introduced to the water from a very early age.

“His mum Kathryn is a bit of a swimmer from way back,” he said.

“I think from day 10 Isaac was in the pool and by two years old he could swim 50 metres quite well.”

Alan said Isaac had always been very capable in the water which was often a surprise to some, given his young age.

“I remember going on holidays one time and Isaac was swimming in the hotel pool while I watched on,” he said.

“He was only four years old and all of a sudden a boy of about seven years old jumped in, thinking Isaac couldn't swim, and tried to save him.

“Isaac ended up being the one dragging this poor boy out of the water instead.”

Alan said Isaac began competition swimming when he started in the junior squad at Bundaberg Swim Academy.

It was where his skillset was quickly recognised and where he began breaking records and winning medals thanks to his training from coaches Scott Hamlet and Paul Simms.

Hearing Isaac's Olympics news was a proud moment for Paul, who said the young sports star had shown great potential in the pool from the first day they met.

“I was there when he shared the news of the Olympics with his family,” Paul said.

“He hugged his Dad first and then came over to me and gave me the biggest hug.

“I remember he said ‘I could not have done this without you Paul', then he started crying and I started crying – it was pretty emotional.”

Paul said Isaac's skillset was realised by Scott Hamlet when he was participating in his junior group.

“Isaac was about 10 or 11 years old when he moved over to my seniors squad and we knew he had plenty of skill because Scotty had already picked up on that,” he said.

“I think what we recognised most was, a lot of little kids just dive in and go hell for leather when they swim, but Isaac could hold the water at an early age.

“He didn't spin the wheels and splash about. Any kid that can do that has a big future.”

Isaac's passion for swimming part of his success

Paul said Isaac was the perfect candidate for the Australian Swim Team and would do Bundaberg proud, no matter the outcome.

“He is the type of kid that, if you built a brick wall in front of him, he would swim right through it,” Paul said.

“He has passion and determination.”

When he was 15 years old, Isaac moved away from the Bundaberg Region to further pursue his swimming career and has recently been training with Rackley Swimming in Brisbane.

Isaac's father Alan said his swimming has continued to improve further.

“He has been smashing times off his PBs, which is just fantastic,” he said.

“With even more training happening now in Tokyo he is really able to focus on better swimming techniques.”

The Cooper family, along with his Bundaberg coaches, will be watching on with excitement and pride on Sunday when Isaac takes to the starting block.

“I am taking next week off work especially so I can watch the Olympics,” Alan laughed.

You too can catch the Olympics live and free in Australia on Channel 7, 7mate, 7two and 7plus, with coverage beginning from 5.30am AEST on weekdays and 6am AEST on weekends.

Chris Pitt shoots for finals in Tokyo

 Georgia Neville

Bundaberg’s Chris Pitt has been selected as one of three representatives heading to Tokyo as part of the Australian Paralympic shooting team.

While the past year has thrown many challenges his way, Chris has not let anything get in the road of reaching his goal of making the finals at the Tokyo Paralympics.

He made the team on bipartite invitation, which is determined by previous achievements, having not had any competitions held over the past year in light of COVID.

“It’s determined by what you have done since the Rio Paralympics and for me I had competed at 10 World Cups and made eight finals and won three medals in that time,” Chris said.

“The more you have done the more chance you have to get the invitation.

“I haven't shot in international competitions since October 2019 which means that it will have almost been two years since I have competed at this level.”

Chris said COVID was not the only hurdle he had overcome in the lead up to his Paralympic selection, as he had also faced some health issues.

After being diagnosed with tongue cancer, Chris said he had prepared harder than ever, both physically and mentally, to get himself ready for the games.

“The end of last year I was diagnosed with tongue cancer and had to have 14 hours of surgery, half my tongue removed and they did a graph to my leg and put that in,” he said.

“I then had to go through six weeks of radiation which finished at the end of January, so between not having competitions and undergoing surgery it has been a big year.”

Following this, Chris said he had been training non-stop to get back into some sort of form.

“I was that weak when I got out that I couldn’t even hold a pistol let alone shoot it,” he said.

“I have been training from the moment I came back out of hospital, but it was a race against time to get the go ahead and I am so happy that I made it.”

After attending the Rio Olympics in 2016, Chris said this year would be very different in light of COVID protocols, with everything from the ceremonies at the games to the lead up and preparation required.

“While it might not be as exciting, as we can't go to an opening or closing ceremony and we can't socialise, it is still classed as a games and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go,” he said.

“I have to go to Brisbane for two weeks to be part of the bubble before we go to Tokyo and then quarantine in Sydney for two weeks on our return so it will be mentally challenging as well.”

Chris said his goals were simple, to try to make it to the finals. 

“I will shoot the best I can and always put in one hundred percent,” he said.

“I would be over the moon if I make a final.”

Chris leaves Brisbane, bound for Tokyo in late August.

Mayor Jack Dempsey congratulates local athletes

Mayor Jack Dempsey congratulated all of the Bundaberg athletes preparing to represent Australia, and the region, on the world stage.

“On behalf of the community I want our wonderful athletes, which include Isaac in Tokyo right now and Samantha, Chris and Rheed who have secured their tickets to Tokyo, to know that the whole community is right behind them,” Mayor Dempsey said.

"You should all be incredibly proud of your achievements that have got you to where you are today.

 “All the best, the entire region will be cheering you on.”

O'Brien Electrical finalists in excellence awards

Emma Reid

O’Brien Electrical Bundaberg’s director Benjamin McIntosh and administrator Chloe McIntosh have been named finalists in the 2021 Master Electricians Australia Excellence awards.

The husband-and-wife team strive to solve customer’s problems with care and consistency, and they believe these values attributed to being named finalist in this year’s Master Electricians Australia Excellence awards.

Being recognised for a Women in Contracting Award, Chloe said when she first started working at the company her skills and knowledge of the electrical industry were limited, but it didn’t take her long to take learn the ropes, and she now encourages other females to take up a career in the trade industry.

“I feel absolutely amazed,” she said.

“To become a state finalist Australia wide is such a great achievement I believe, it really has pushed me that bit further in my career.

“I think I was selected because of my attitude, for my great customer service skills, always putting our customers first by making sure they are 100 per cent happy with our service at all times – keeping on top of that relationship with them is my main key.”

Chloe said it was the first time O’Brien Electrical Bundaberg had been recognised at this level, and the entire team were quite proud of their achievements, especially over the last few years.

“O’Brien Electrical Bundaberg was previously recognised as Laser Electrical. O’Brien Auto Glass and Laser Plumbing and Electrical joined forces in 2018 to create a full offering of expert solutions for customers across Australia, which is how O’Brien Electrical and Plumbing was born,” she said.

“As O’Brien Electrical and Plumbing, the business continues to be committed to solving people’s problems with real care, and, with the same values that both companies have held since the beginning.

“Benjamin bought the laser electrical company in 2019, since the purchase we have grown progressively and have built the business up to a great size and reputation.”

Being selected as a Master Electrician of the Year state finalist Benjamin said was a good achievement not only for himself, but the company as a whole.

“I believe I was selected as state finalist because of my business-driven mind to succeed in everything and anything I do,” he said.

“I’m very focused on building a well reputational empire. This just proves that whatever you put your mind to will eventually come to life.

“Being previously in a family business I had knowledge on the industry, and being an electrician by trade I thought that it would be a great idea to grow further, to push my skills to the limit to help others and to train my employees to be the best they can be, not only with their skills and technique but within themselves as well.

“The business has come so far in the years of ownership and all I can say is, it only goes up from here.”

The O'Brien Electrical team will now await the announcement of the 2021 Master Electricians Australia Excellence awards winners, set to take place later this year.

Millefiori Murano makes a move to Bundaberg Region

Emma Reid

Moving her Millefiori Murano jewellery business online has allowed Tania FitzGerald to move from Victoria to the Bundaberg Region.

Tania said she, and her partner, had always wanted to live by the sea, with a warm climate, and it didn’t take them long to fall in love with Moore Park Beach.

“We learned that the climate in this area is one of the best in the world, and discovered Moore Park Beach, which is gorgeous and unspoilt and was in our price range,” she said.

“COVID turned my business into online only, which meant that I can work from anywhere, so I could bring it with me and work from here as well as anywhere else. All I need is an internet connection and a post office.

“So, now I work within the sound of the sea and get to stretch my legs on the beautiful empty beach every day.”

Leaving King Valley in Victoria almost three months ago, Tania is excited to share her Millefiori Murano business with the local community, and she will hold a stall at this year’s Childers Festival.

“I originally started making mosaics as a hobby, discovered millefiori about eight years ago and became obsessed with using them to make jewellery,” she said.

“As I didn’t have any glass working skills or equipment, I came up with my way of using them which seems to be unique, so I create pieces that look very different than what is made in Venice.”

Tania said Millefiori (or murrini as the Italians call them) are slices of decorative glass cane; originally a Roman glass technique that was rediscovered in Murano nearly two centuries ago.

“The canes are made in a similar way to rock candy, moulds are used to create the pattern and then the liquid glass is stretched up to 10 metres to make the canes, which are then sliced into chunks once cooled,” she said.

“There is only one factory left in Italy making millefiori, Effetre on the island of Murano, which is where I buy my raw material.

“There are hundreds of patterns which come in many different sizes and colours. I wish I could have them all!”

The millefiori from Murano is then mixed with resin to make Tania’s mosaic jewellery.

“I cut the millefiori glass slices thinly, and use them, along with small pieces of coloured iridescent and mirror glass, to make a micro mosaic in a metal bezel, and then seal then with jewellery resin,” she said.

“It creates a lens over the glass and makes the colours luminous and 3D.

“I now also bring over other pieces made by artisans in Venice to have a broader range of items available for my customers.

“I now sell mainly online since COVID hit, though previously did pop up stores and many markets and festivals in Victoria.”

Setting up her Millefiori Murano pop-up stall at the Childers Festival Tania said it would be the first market since moving to the Bundaberg Region, and she encouraged locals to stop by and say hello.

Photogruzzi exhibition raises over $4000

Georgia Neville

Bundaberg Regional Galleries’ Photogruzzi exhibition held earlier this year has raised thousands of dollars for charity, StandBy.

The exhibition, which was held at BRAG in February, collected more than $4400 from the sale of the late David “Gruzzi” Graham’s much-loved art prints, which his family donated to the suicide support charity.

David’s wife Wendy Graham said they were overwhelmed by the support from the community in helping to raise funds for an important service.

“The community has supported us so well with this fundraiser,” Ms Graham said.

“StandBy is going to be able to help local families as we are ensuring that the funds stay within the local community to support others.

“While there are a lot of supports out there that are preventative, which is important, but to also have the support afterwards is vital and it has been really appreciated that StandBy have been able to provide that support to us in many different ways.”

David’s daughter Pia Shorten said the family were very thankful to all the members of the community who had visited the exhibition and purchased his works.

“Thank you to the community as they are the ones who made the donations possible and put the money towards buying the photographs,” Ms Shorten said.

“Everyone who has come and visited and supported the gallery are the ones who have made it possible.”

Mark Hennessey from StandBy said the funds would help to provide different services including weekly groceries, cleaning or even transport to those in need.

“The donation will support families impacted by suicide and in a lot of cases the person the lose is the main person bringing the income into the family,” Mr Hennessey said.

“This money will help those families with things like some food for that week, it can also help with cleaning or with transport which are all the little things that a family need when going through the grief.”

Bundaberg Regional Galleries Director Rebecca McDuff said the opportunity to support the family of David, who gave so much to the gallery, was one that they felt privileged to have.

“This was a very special exhibition for Bundaberg Regional Galleries, as not only was Dave Graham an amazing photographer in our region, but he was also a valued part of our gallery volunteer team,” Ms McDuff said.

“To be able to work with the Graham family to curate the Photogruzzi exhibition was an absolute honour, and it was an exhibition that holds a special place in our heart.”

She said the exhibition proved very popular within the community which was a credit to talented pieces of artwork David produced.

“The exhibition had over 1800 visitors in its six-week run and visitors were moved by the intensity of Dave’s artworks and the unique way that he captured his subjects,” Ms McDuff said.

“The popularity of the exhibition is reflected in the level of artwork sales that were made and the final donation to StandBy.

The exhibition showcased photos from his street photography to his Cosplay images, through to his intimate portraits of nature, Gruzzi’s interaction with his subjects and his ability to capture the moment were celebrated.

If you or anyone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Stephen and Elizabeth Dale receive Paul Harris Fellow

Georgia Neville

Rotarians Stephen and Elizabeth Dale have been recognised for their hard work and dedication to the local organisation each receiving a Paul Harris Fellow.

Married for 33 years, Stephen and Elizabeth moved to the Bundaberg Region in 2004 and were both heavily involved in junior sports while raising their three children.

It was a decade later, after their children had left home, they decided to continue to contribute to the local community and support a service club.

Elizabeth inadvertently realised her passion for helping others when she joined members of Bundaberg West Rotary to assist with the relief efforts after the Bundaberg floods of 2013.

“It was then that she met members of the club and saw the great work that was done in the community and led her to joining the club later,” Stephen said.

“We both joined Bundaberg West Rotary together in 2015 after deciding that we would like to contribute to a service club after our children had left home.

“Bundaberg West and Bundaberg East Rotary clubs merged in July last year to form Bundaberg Central Rotary Club.”

Elizabeth, a medical scientist with QML Pathology, and Stephen, assistant director with Catholic Education supporting schools in Bundaberg, Gladstone, Monto and Biloela, both find time to contribute to local Rotary in many ways.

Elizabeth has been on the board of Bundaberg West Rotary Club since joining, acting as secretary and treasurer of the club. She is assistant treasurer of Bundaberg Central, and this year will take on the role of club administration.

While Stephen has been youth director for Bundaberg West and Bundaberg Central serving as trustee of the Garnett Buss Bursary; organising participants for the Rotary National Youth Science Forum and he helped with organisation and adjudication of high school debating.

It was Stephen’s enjoyment of cycling that led him to take part in the bicycle ride, Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC), which then inspired him to join Rotary.

“In 2014, because I enjoyed cycling, the ROMAC ride was a way of enjoying a testing ride while also raising money to support people in need,” Stephen said.

“It opened my eyes to great people and the great work of Rotary.

“Some amazing work is done through ROMAC to bring children with severe medical needs to Australia for treatment.

“In 2016 I decided to challenge myself to ride 505km in 24 hours which was an amazing experience.”

The couple said they were delighted to receive the Paul Harris Fellow.

The recognition is awarded to Rotarians, and others, that have shown that they are prepared to go that extra mile in support of people in need.

“Receiving the Paul Harris Fellow recognition is very humbling and a great honour,” Stephen said.

“It is tribute to the work that so many Rotarians contribute to our community.

“It is a great privilege to know that with the awarding of each Paul Harris fellow, $1000US is provided to the Rotary Foundation which is utilised for humanitarian works throughout the world.”

Stephen said programs such as eradication of polio, provision of clean water and shelter boxes that are deployed in time of natural disasters are just some of the things supported by the Rotary Foundation.

Pine Creek bush garden Kathy’s escape

Morgan Everett

Pine Creek is home to 20 acres of vibrant bush garden, which Kathy Swann has spent a decade carefully curating and nurturing.

When Kathy and her husband moved in the gardens were ravished by Kathy’s geese, leaving her to rebuild the gardens from scratch.

“I love being outside in the garden and I absolutely love watering,” Kathy said.

“At the moment we only have chickens, ducks and guinea fowl that we let free range.”

Kathy said the rural property offers peace and quiet with it allowing her to step back from the hustle and bustle of her work life.

“I would never live anywhere else,” she said.

“My most favourite place to sit is on the front porch surrounded by my plants enjoying the wildlife, we get a lot of wallabies and king parrots which we feed.

“When I’m out there I feel so happy, relaxed and truly blessed.”

Kathy said her father used to garden when they lived in Melbourne, featuring roses and fruit trees, although it wasn’t of interest until she had children.

“It was just something when the kids were little, it was my escape,” she said.

“I had three children, so I used to go out in the garden and they weren't interested, it was my peace.

“When I retire, I would like to grow all my own vegetables, add two peacocks to the menagerie and grow old together with my hubby.”

A shaded area full of luscious plants leads to the entry way of the house, which continues to thrive thanks to Kathy’s happy go lucky gardening style.

“I don't know names of plants, I just like what I like,” Kathy said.

“I don't understand it, I just love gardening.

“If there are some plants not looking quite well, I'll just dig it up and move it to another spot.”

Facing the challenge of drought, it is not only the plants that thrive off a generous water supply but Kathy’s ducks who enjoy frolicking in the dam. 

The outdoor space continues to grow purely off dam water and Kathy said having a second dam built would allow her to water to her hearts content.

“We lost a lot of our fruit trees due to the drought and I have decided not to replace them until the new dam is built and the heavens open,” Kathy said.

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Recipe: Sweet Potato & Kale strudel


If you are looking for something to warm you up on these cooler days, this Sweet Potato & Kale Strudel is sure to hit the spot.


- 300g sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped into 2cm pieces

- 300g kale

- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

- 1 tbs butter

- 1 onion, finely chopped

- 300g mushrooms, sliced

- 180ml crème fraîche

- 20g parmesan, grated

- 140g gruyere cheese, chopped into very small pieces

- 1 tsp ground nutmeg

- ½ tsp salt & cracked pepper

- 8 sheets filo pastry 

- 80g butter, melted

- ½ tbs poppy seeds


1. Heat the oven 180 degrees C 

2. On a baking tray add some olive oil & sweet potatoes, bake until tender – remove & place into a bowl

3. Remove the leaves from the kale stems & roughly chop them

4. Heat the oil the butter in a pan, then fry the onion, kale & mushrooms for about 10 mins until soft & the water from the pan has evaporated – Add this to a large bowl

5. Add the crème fraîche, parmesan, 100g of the gruyere cheese and the nutmeg to the bowl with everything & stir well – season with a good amount of salt & pepper – allow to cool slightly

6. Melt the butter. Lay a sheet of filo on a large baking sheet

7. Brush lightly with melted butter, then put another sheet on top. Do this until you have 8 layers of filo.

8. With the long side of the baking sheet towards you, spoon the filling along the pastry, about 4cm in from the edge. Sprinkle the remaining gruyere cheese on top.

9. Carefully roll the filo and the stuffing into a fat log shape and tuck the ends underneath to seal

10. Brush the strudel with more butter, scatter over the poppy seeds and bake for 25 mins until golden brown

Bundaberg's Neil Redfern scores QRL award

Georgia Neville

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.