National Youth Week - a celebration of young leaders in Rugby League
As part of National Youth Week, the NRL is celebrating some of the young people that make a difference to our game and their wider community.
The annual event is Australia’s largest celebration of young people that acknowledges the talents of Australians aged between 12 and 25 years. It takes place thanks to the support of the federal, state, territory, and local governments.
A NSW Government initiative that started in 1989, Youth Week provides an opportunity for young people to express their ideas and views, act on issues that affect their lives, and create and enjoy activities and events.
La Toniya Norris and Kenneth Tauala are just two examples of how youth are making a positive difference in their community. The NRL would like to commend them on their achievements.
Norris is an Indigenous rugby league player from the Northern Territory, who was a standout player in the recent Combined Affiliated States tournament, which gained her selection into the 20-woman squad to compete at the national championships in the first weekend of June.
NRL Affiliated States Manager Martin Meredith is looking forward to seeing the 17-year-old in action on the Gold Coast in June.
"She was outstanding in that event, playing against older and more experienced people," Martin said.
"She's a bit of a natural really. Her speed was outstanding, she was electrifying and she scored a couple of great tries over the weekend.
"A great talent and we're looking forward to seeing her play again."
With the women's game growing rapidly, Martin believes women's rugby league is heading in the right direction.
"Up until this year, we probably haven't had an opportunity for the female game to have a career path. The girls have been out there playing just because they want to play,'' he said.
''But now with the premiership at the back end of the year, we've got the Jillaroos, and now the national championships coming up, I think there is a definite pathway.
"La Toniya may grab a contract with one of the premiership clubs to participate in the competition later this year, that would be wonderful. Whether she's ready this year or next year, she's on her way and we've created a road map now where that is possible."
Kenneth Tauala showed positive leadership in the In League In Harmony program and was selected into the Youth Advocate Program, where he won the inaugural NRL Youth Advocate of the Year Award in 2017.
Following his participation in the program, the 17-year-old led an "Equality for girls" initiative at his school which he received the "ADF Long Tan Youth Leaders" Award for service to the community.
Kenneth will be attending the National Youth Week celebrations for outstanding participation in the two years he was involved in the program.
NRL community engagement officer Joe Galuvao supported Kenneth through the program and says he is a natural leader.
"From the first time we engaged with him you could tell he was a leader straight away and someone that was really big on social change," Joe said.
"The big thing about Kenneth and what I got from his teachers is that he does things on his own accord and uses his own initiative.
"One of our key values is inclusiveness and that our game is for everyone. I think he took that on board and saw an opportunity of how he can be inclusive and how he can be a game changer and he drove that at his school."
The NRL Community program aims to promote social cohesion and Joe is adamant that it's kids like Kenneth that are driving the success of the program.
"We have a lot of pride in the program, we believe in the message and what sport can do in bringing about social change, and its kids like Kenneth that are amazing role model for that," Joe said.