The National Rugby League (NRL) has today announced the finalists for this year's Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year, which recognises the efforts of an NRL player who has not only achieved on the field, but has committed time off the field to community projects.
The finalists for this year's award – Latrell Mitchell, Jamal Fogarty, James Tedesco, Patrick Carrigan and Toby Rudolf – have been selected for going above and beyond in their involvement in charity work, youth development or community support.
The Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year finalists have been selected from the annual NRL Community Team of the Year, recognising each nominee as part of an elite cohort for their contribution off the field to community service.
The Ken Stephen Medal - Man of the Year will be announced in Grand Final Week alongside the Veronica White Medal - Woman of the Year.
“The Ken Stephen Medal – Man of the Year is one of our games highest honours, showcasing the community contributions made by our NRL players off the field. With the support of Westpac, the Ken Stephen Medal recognises and celebrates a players’ commitment to community, going above and beyond in their involvement in charity work, youth development or community support. Westpac have been instrumental in their support of the 2023 Community Awards," Andrew Every, Executive General Manager Participation and Community said.
Established in 2007, the NRL Community Awards have become the most significant opportunity for our game’s unsung heroes to receive the recognition and thanks they deserve for the tireless work they do in the community. It also provides an opportunity for the NRL to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution that clubs, state leagues and both NRL and NRLW players make year on year.
This year will be the 35th instance that the Ken Stephen Medal will be awarded, with a host of worthy recipients receiving this prestigious award since Wayne Pearce won the inaugural medal in 1988 – including Ryan James, Joel Thompson, Jonathan Thurston, Nathan Hindmarsh and Ronaldo Mulitalo.
Patrick Carrigan – Brisbane Broncos
Patrick’s junior club, Easts Tigers Juniors, would be proud of his achievements – on and off the field. A dedicated and talented player, Patrick is deeply committed to making a difference in the Brisbane Broncos community.
Whether at a Connect Rugby League All Abilities Game, attending a Royal Flying Doctors Charity Dinner, meeting young fans or supporting fans who are battling illness, Patrick’s understated passion for giving back to the community is evident in all he does. Patrick wholeheartedly helps and inspires individuals, families and organisations. He has made a difference to the outlook of cancer patients in the Brisbane Broncos community, forging personal relationships and genuinely walking beside them during their treatment.
Patrick has enthusiastically embraced the charity Orange Sky Laundry, becoming an ambassador, raising much needed funds and awareness for Orange Sky and their daily work with the homeless community. Inspired by his work with Orange Sky, Patrick looks for other opportunities to help feed the underprivileged, often boxing up remaining catering after an event and driving it to homeless shelters.
Patrick’s on-field accolades, coupled with his genuine passion to serve the community, make Patrick a role model and leader for his teammates.
Jamal Fogarty – Canberra Raiders
A proud Mununjali man from Beaudesert, Jamal is a great source of motivation for Indigenous and non-Indigenous players.
Jamal is a proud ambassador of the Ronald McDonald House Canberra who provide accommodation for families with seriously ill children. Jamal liaises directly with the charity to arrange visits and raises funds for this charity in his own time. He donates his own playing gear to raises money for the charity. His recent auction raised enough funds to support a family for seventeen nights at RMHC. Fogarty does not stop there: he chose to be the Win the Day Ambassador – supporting families, raising awareness and funds for rare childhood cancer research.
Canberra Raiders charity partner, Bimberi Youth Justice Service, is proud to have Jamal participating in their program. The program seeks to support young people building skills to get back on track, avoid future criminal behaviour and return confidently to the community. Jamal’s voluntary support of this program has helped other Raiders players find the confidence to attend program sessions too. Jamal is a quiet leader who leads by example.
These inspirational ambassador roles are just some of the ways Jamal gives back to the Canberra Raiders community. He also visited schools in the 2023 NRL School Blitz, read books during National Simultaneous Reading time, and shared stories with twenty Indigenous high school students.
Toby Rudolf – Cronulla Sharks
Toby is committed to humbly serving the wider community. His passion for going above club commitments, to make long-lasting difference, is what sets him aside from other players
Toby works passionately for the club’s Sharks Have Heart community program and proudly holds the record for the most community work undertaken at the Sharks. He tirelessly gives his time to numerous events and fundraisers. Some of these include- Sharks Ladies Golf Fundraiser, collecting toys for a Christmas Drive, Junior League Blitz training sessions, One Heart anti-racism programs, Make a Wish Foundation and Deadly Choices Elders event.
This South Eastern Seagulls junior, is proactive, sees a need in the community and selflessly organises support. This was the case when a young fan battling Leukaemia inspired Toby to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation by shaving his signature locks for the World’s Greatest Shave. He exceeded his goal and raised $42 000 in donations. Not only did Toby raise money to put towards research, but he also raised awareness of the crucial work of the Leukaemia Foundation.
Toby passionately utilises his profile to support community initiatives. With an innate ability to connect with all generations of the Sharks Community, Toby is making a true difference and showcasing that Sharks really do have heart.
Latrell Mitchell – South Sydney Rabbitohs
Latrell Mitchell has an undeniable passion for the game of rugby league. The same grit and determination Latrell displays on the field, he also displays off the field in his work with the Souths Cares program.
Stemming from his own humble up-bringing in the regional NSW town of Taree, Latrell is passionate about a wide range of initiatives outside of his club commitments, with a focus on Indigenous communities, regional NSW, mental health and grass-roots rugby league. Whether it is helping rural towns re-building after a natural disaster, campaigning against online bullying, or becoming a mental health ambassador of the Goanna Academy, Latrell gives his all to anything he sets his mind to. This passion and dedication ensure he makes significant difference to everything he pursues.
Latrell helps grass-roots juniors and Indigenous and female teams achieve their dreams by making financial donations, discreetly, without the pursuit of public accolade. This personal investment to making a difference to Indigenous communities is also demonstrated by Latrell hosting a male Leadership and Cultural Camp at Latrell’s family farm in Taree. Participants from the Liverpool Opportunity Hub, Nanga Mai Marri (Dream Big) program and the Deadly Youth Mentoring Program all attended the family farm and were able to witness Latrell’s generosity, courage and empathy.
A Taree Red Rover’s junior, Latrell is proud of his heritage and ensures he is a positive example of inclusivity and unity for all.
James Tedesco – Sydney Roosters
Champion fullback, James Tedesco, is a player who consistently strives to go above and beyond to help those in the community – all with an infectious smile!
The Camden Rams junior, recognises the way his high profile can help those in need in the community. His ambassador role with Heroes with Ability demonstrates his passion for inclusivity, while his club community commitments ensure James works with charities, youth development and community support.
James is particularly proud of his patronage with the Sporting Chance Cancer Foundation, a charity which financially supports mobile care units that provide much-needed assistance to children with cancer. He has passionately raised funds and awareness for the charity since 2019 and has had an outreach program named in his honour – the James Tedesco Outreach Program. This program will be established in the Children’s Hospital in Randwick and will employ a nurse to operate outreach programs for children with cancer.
Juggling a captaincy, representing Australia in the Rugby League World Cup and playing in the State of Origin all add extra pressure to an already gruelling NRL season. These extra commitments have not stopped James’ efforts to make a difference in the community – giving back to the fans who support him.