It’s no secret Group 19 has an amazing bunch of volunteers – and now one of its own has been formally recognised with Country Rugby League’s top honour.
Jeannette Hillier beat out five other contenders to be crowned the CRL’s Volunteer of the Year at an awards ceremony at Potts Point in Sydney on Saturday night.
She was put forward as the Greater Northern Region’s finalist for the award for her ongoing commitment to rugby league in the area. Hillier currently holds the position of Group 19 junior president and referees coordinator at the Glen Innes Minor League.
Her involvement in the sport stretches back 30 years and her passion shines through by trying to make the sport available for everyone.
“I actually became a provider of the sports trainers course so that I could deliver courses in this area so other people didn’t have to travel as far and hopefully minimise the cost a bit,” she said.
“That’s one thing I am proud I have done because it might help our area.”
Hillier said the award doesn’t just belong to her but to all the people across the area who make the sport a success.
“It was a bit of a surprise. Won [it] out of the blue, really, because that’s not what you do it for and you don’t expect that to happen,” she said.
“One hundred per cent it is the whole region’s award, really, because you work for your region, you work for the community. And that can be a small community or a larger community. It is still all a rugby league community.
“I held other positions up until last year so this is my first year as president. But I definitely think in Group 19 junior league we are doing a lot right. We have got 1160-odd players registered [players] and our female participation has gone up two-fold since we first introduced league tag.”
Hillier is “humbled” by the award and said she enjoys mentoring young referees coming through the ranks.
“We have young referees coming through because you have to keep everybody coming through, every angle of the game happening. You can’t just focus on one area,” she said.
“That’s what I am trying to do as president. I am trying to build numbers with referees, first aid officers, league safe coaches, players, volunteers. We need everybody at the moment.
“It is an honour to be recognised. And I have been involved for a lot of years but I have a lot of fun too and [I’ve] made so many friends.”