Canterbury Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson was tonight awarded the coveted Ken Stephen Medal for his outstanding service to the community at the 2014 NRL One Community Awards.

Hodkinson, 25, took out the prestigious award at a special ceremony held at CarriageWorks in Sydney, intensifying the excitement around the NRL Telstra Premiership final series.

2014 was Hodkinson’s year both on and off field thanks to his exceptional playing performance and his tireless work within the greater community.

As an ambassador for the RSPCA, Hodkinson was a key figure in raising awareness and funding for the Million Paws Walk initiative as well as continuing his altruism on field by writing the name of a sick or disadvantaged child on his kicking tee every game.

Hodkinson also formed a special bond with seven year-old Rebecca Adouni, supporting her and her family as Rebecca went through a period of bullying at school. His friendship with the young Bulldogs fan has helped her confidence turn around and become happy and comfortable in her own skin.

“It’s a massive achievement to be in a room with a lot of people who do such great work, it’s an honour,” said Hodkinson of his win.

“There are so many players out there who do such great jobs in their own communities and I feel very privileged to have this award.”

Hodkinson was one of eight award-winners announced at the One Community Awards ceremony. The annual event recognises the unsung heroes that dedicate their time to promoting the strong values of the game within the community.

More than 260 guests, including former and current players, NRL club officials, award nominees, sponsors and guests attended the inspiring ceremony to celebrate the people that make the game happen on a grassroots level.

NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith said the One Community Awards were the opportunity to celebrate and thank those people who are the heart-and-soul of the game.

“This is our opportunity to acknowledge the countless hours that volunteers, officials, game administrators and elite players dedicate to the game and their communities throughout the year,” Mr Smith said.

“On behalf of all of the NRL, I’d like to congratulate Trent Hodkinson and all of the NRL One Community Award winners for their inspirational work.

“Every story demonstrates that through the power of the game we can change lives for the better and bring communities together.”

The Ken Stephen Medal is named after the NSWRL administrator who dedicated 28 years of service to the game.

From establishing programs to support professional athletes studying at university to dedicating hundreds of hours to children’s literacy programs and striving to stamp out bullying in schools across the country, the players nominated for the medal have all demonstrated significant achievements and dedication to community endeavours.

Alongside Hodkinson, the One Community Awards honour roll included the following award winners:

·         Holden National Volunteer of the Year: Gary Fa’afua of Bexley, NSW (NSWRL)

·         Telstra NRL One Community Grassroots Club of the Year: Sunset Tigers Junior Rugby League Football Club, Mt Isa, QLD (QRL)

·         Harvey Norman Women in League Achievement Award: Erin Rowe of Northfield, SA (SARL)

·         ACCOR National Teacher of the Year: Jon Keal of Tullawong State High School, QLD

The AAMI Service to Rugby League Medal recipients were:

·         Michael Covey of Beacon Hill, NSW (NSWRL)

·         Sandra Ellicot of Coffs Harbour, NSW (CRL)

·         John Moore of Dianella, WA (WARL)

The background of the winners of the 2014 One Community Awards are as follows:

Ken Stephen Medal presented by Telstra

Telstra awarded $5,000 to the winner and $5,000 to their favourite charity.

Winner: Trent Hodkinson (Canterbury Bulldogs)

An ambassador for the RSPCA and key figure in the Bulldogs Party Safe Program, Hodkinson dedicated countless hours to community-focused initiatives in 2014.

Hodkinson used his profile to raise awareness and funding for the RSPCA’s Million Paws Walk event, which promoted animal welfare. Equally focused on humanitarian efforts, Hodkinson engraves his kicking tee every game with the name of a young fan doing it tough.

Hodkinson dedicated time to visiting local schools and community groups to talk about the dangers of drug use, alcohol, sexual assault and physical assault through the Bulldogs Party Safe Program. 

During the last year, Hodkinson has formed a special bond with seven-year-old Rebecca Adouni. The friendship formed through social media and it wasn’t until later that Hodkinson learnt that Rebecca was being bullied at school. Following the heartbreaking news, Hodkinson stepped in and played an even stronger mentor to Rebecca by attending her birthday party and showing the young girl she had a lifelong friend in him.

Finalists: Josh McGuire (Broncos), Joel Edwards (Raiders), Michael Gordon (Sharks), Ryan James (Titans), Gavin Cooper (Cowboys), Brenton Lawrence (Sea Eagles), Matt Duffie (Storm), Robbie Rochow (Knights), Manu Vatuvei (Warriors), Ben Smith (Eels), Nigel Plum (Panthers), Ben Creagh (Dragons), Anthony Minichiello (Roosters) and Dene Halatau (Tigers).