In the spirit of National Volunteer Week in Aotearoa, New Zealand Rugby League will showcase the hard mahi that goes unnoticed around the motu. From coaches to administration, volunteers are naturally a huge part of the foundation of rugby league and thus deserve to be highlighted.

Through NZRL’s More Than A Game philosophy, we are committed to transforming lives and community wellbeing through rugby league, this is achieved by the hard-working volunteers that make up our many communities.

In 2021, a plethora of the game’s servants have already given back to their communities, and this article will highlight the efforts of Jade Wylde, Jess Bijl-Kakoi and Ally Tamihere.

Ally Tamihere has been committed to the game in Tairawhiti for over 15 years. She has helped host the National Women’s Tournament in 2012, bringing the Warriors and the Sharks to Tairawhiti, co-ordinating the local senior competition while also supporting rangatahi and the premier men at the National Maori Tournaments.

Tamihere has also had influence in implementing hauora kaupapa, such as suicide awareness and prevention in the Tairawhiti region. In 2021, Ally has been focused on developing the grassroots game providing mini-mod competitions and also the annual Trish Hina Tournament.

Graham Edmonds of Te Tairawhiti spoke on Tamihere, “The passion and drive she has for the game is second to none. Her energy and mahi can be felt all of the Gisborne area, and we appreciate all her hard work and dedication towards the game.”

Taranaki’s Jade Wylde has been instrumental in introducing a new rugby league club named Stratford Toa, as well as coaching its under 6’s team.

Acquaintance Jamie Lee Davis had this to say about Wylde, “He is the first to arrive and last to leave, he goes above and beyond for the youth, and it is never a chore for him. Stratford Toa appreciates him and his efforts in creating and developing our new rugby league club.”

Jess Bijl-Kakoi has helped keep the Canterbury under 14s competition alive, entering a team (EE Sports Tuna) and ensuring there are sufficient pathways for players in that age bracket.

“Jess, alongside husband Sam, work tirelessly to ensure players are registered, playing and healthy. She is a fantastic support person for the young people while also getting dirty with pick-ups and drop-offs.” Clubmate, Te Iwingaro Wairau states.

Bijl-Kakoi invests tremendously into the rangatahi of the area and will continue to find avenues to develop them both on and off the field.

An article can do no justice to all the mahi these individuals do for rugby league around the country. Still, it is essential to highlight and showcase some of the volunteers that drive the game in Aotearoa.