2016 NRL Victoria Awards Night Recap - All The Winners!

2016 NRL Victoria Awards Winners Announced

The 2016 NRL Victoria season came to an end on September 3 culminating in Werribee Bears taking out their maiden First Grade Premiership.  Over 260 people from the Rugby League community across Victoria came together last Saturday 15 October to celebrate the season and recognise the many achievements and contributions made to a great year.

Below are the awards and their recipients from this gala evening.


2016 NRL Victoria Awards Winners

First Grade Player of the Year – Pride Petterson-Robati (Casey Warriors)

Volunteer of the Year – Neff Tapelu (Northern Thunder)

Club Coach of the Year – Thomas Niutili-Schmidt (Sunbury Tigers)

Life Member Induction – Frank Epere (Altona Roosters)

Contribution to Rugby League Community – Hallam Senior College

Contribution to Representative Program – Jake Leslie

Senior Representative Player of the Year – Waka Sweet (Mens) (Casey Warriors)

Junior Representative Player of the Year – Tiui Misi (U18’s) (North West Wolves)

Spirit of League Award – Eastern Raptors

Referee Award – Matthew Hicks

Women’s First Grade Top Scorer – Hera Cook-Avatea (Casey Warriors)

Men’s First Grade Top Scorer – Chase Hoare (Werribee Bears)



2016 Volunteer of the Year – Neff Tapelu (Northern Thunder)

To establish a winner for the Volunteer of the Year award, nominations were sought by NRL Victorian community and a final selection was done through the Awards selection panel. It is an award to any person in NRL Victoria who has contributed in a voluntary manner that has made a real difference to the Rugby League community in Victoria.

Neff Tapelu is a hard working volunteer for Northern Thunder. In 2016 Neff was the Vice President, Coach and Coaching Coordinator for Northern Thunder.

Neff is also a handy maintenance man for the club and completes various tasks, that all clubs would be familiar with – marking field lines, setting up the club fields for every home game and continues to give of his time not only to his club but also the NRL Victorian state development teams.

For the past 10 years, Neff has also been the Team Manager for the Victorian Under 18’s representative team and has played a significant mentoring role to many of talented players who played in this squad.

Neff provides public training sessions for up and coming players to develop their individual skills towards making the state development trials.

Neff is an extremely worthy recipient of this award and a great representative for all volunteers in the game in Victoria


2016 Club Coach of the Year – Thomas Niutili-Schmidt (Sunbury Tigers)

To establish a winner for this award, nominations were sought from Rugby League Community of Victoria, a short list was formed and final selection was done through the Awards selection panel. It is an award to recognise a club based coach that provides a positive contribution and engagement of Rugby League for players and their club through their role as coach, and in the process promoting the Spirit of the game and embodying Fair Play

Thomas has been coaching for 5 years at Sunbury Tigers now and has coached in 5 Grand Finals and gone onto win 4 of them including this year’s Under 15’s premiership.

What impressed the Awards Panel about Thomas is that his success is not off the back of bringing developed players into his team but to be a developer of players, in particular representative players.  He is always searching for ways to develop his own coaching so that he can better serve the development of the players he coaches.

Through this Thomas has gained the respect from his players and their parents, as well as the representative team coaches.

Thomas is noted as always willing take a step further to help out his team, taking players to training and/or games, if parents are unavailable to do so.

Thomas is a recipient that all those around him would agree that he has devoted his time to get the best out of his team, not only for the success, but to be a positive role model for the young men he coaches.


2016 Contribution to Rugby League Community Award – Hallam Senior College

To establish a winner for this award, nominations were sought by NRL Victoria Staff and volunteers, with final selection made through the Awards selection panel. This is an award to recognisean individual, group, or organisation that has made a significant difference to and/or positive impact that leaves a lasting legacy to the Rugby League Community in Victoria.

Hallam Senior College receives this award in recognition of outstanding contribution to the game of Rugby League in Victoria.

The role of schools is strategically critical in the development of Rugby League in Victoria. Hallam Senior College has been visionary in this regard being the leading and pioneering school in Victoria for Rugby League establishing its own Rugby League Academy in 2007.

The role of academy was to support and service the many students in its surrounding communities to keep them interested and engaged in school and provide them with opportunities to pursue careers in the sport and recreation industry.

The Academy takes a whole of student approach, which includes participation in the Academy is only permitted based on first meeting educational and behavioural requirements set out by the school.

The Academy places an important focus on areas of the game outside of play, by actively engaging its students in the Beyond the Goalpost program to provide students opportunities beyond playing roles within Rugby League – such as coaching and refereeing training and delivering Rugby League programs in local Primary Schools.

On field over several years saw the academy program take significant progress with the school team making the semi-finals of the GIO Trophy in 2014, a result which caught the eye of the NRL and soon after an invitation to enter the more prestigious GIO Cup in 2015 to compete against the elite of Rugby League schools in Australia.  In 2016 the school missed out on finals qualification by a single point, sending a signal to the rest of the country that Victoria is not just here to make the numbers but to make a difference.

NRL Representatives to have progressed through this academy include Mahe Fonua and Kenny Bromwich.


2016 Contribution to Representative Program Award – Jake Leslie

Jake worked tirelessly across a number of representative teams. He was the Head Trainer for our U18’s Mal Meninga Cup team, U18’s schoolboy’s team and Hallam Senior College. He also assisted a number of other teams in ensuring players were looked after when injured to ensure a quick return to training and competition. It was no coincidence that our success across the Junior Rep teams and Schoolboy teams correlates to having nearly a whole Squad to choose from.


2016 Senior Representative Player of the Year – Waka Sweet (Mens) (Casey Warriors)

Waka played in the Back Row for the Men’s team in Adelaide. He was outstanding across the 3 games and was rewarded with selection into the Combined Affiliated States team who toured Fiji last month. Waka’s commitment to the program and his leadership both on and off the field was terrific.


2016 Junior Representative Player of the Year – Tiui Misi (U18’s) (North West Wolves)

Tiui was the captain of the Mal Meninga Cup team and the U18’s Schoolboys side. He was named Best Forward for the Mal Meninga Cup and was selected for the 2nd year in a row into the Combined Affiliated States team for the 18’s National Championships. Tiui was also captain of Victoria University Secondary College who participated in the GIO Trophy. This award not only recognises the achievements of Tiui on the field but highlights the impact he had off it through his leadership and being a role model.


2016 Spirit of League Award – Eastern Raptors

 The purpose of NRL Victoria Spirit of League Award is to reward and recognise the club that is best respected by its community through the manner in which it and its players best conduct themselves on and off the field, placing the best interest of the game ahead of their own personal interest or success.

 This award recognises and brings awareness to the clubs who as best as they can deliver consistently on the values of the game and embody what the Spirit of Rugby League is about.

Importantly this award is determined by the Rugby League community, it is not determined by NRL Victoria staff or a panel. It is you the community that have determined which club among you who best represents the spirit of your community.


Congratulations to the Eastern Raptors who won the Spirit of League Award for the second successive year.


2016 Referee Award – Matthew Hicks


In addition to high quality performances and representing at National carnivals, Matthew is recognised for his contribution to refereeing and the game by his commitment in making himself available for any type of match and will referee multiple matches in day, assisting greatly with guiding/mentoring younger referees, and attends clubs information nights to assist with refereeing matters.


 2016 Women’s First Grade Top Scorer – Hera Cook-Avatea (Casey Warriors)


Hera scored an impressive 25 tries and a singular goal in the 2016 season for Casey Warriors in the Women’s First Grade competition.


2016 Men’s First Grade Top Scorer – Chase Hoare (Werribee Bears)


Chase crossed the line on 14 occasions and kicked 56 goals for his Werribee Bears First Grade side in the 2016 season.



2016 NRL Victoria Awards Panel


Joseph Ryan – NRL Victoria Chairman

Brent Silva – NRL Victoria General Manager

Greg Brentnall – Melbourne Storm Development Manager



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