14 December 2021

Despite another Covid riddled year, this has not deterred the passion of our rugby league communities across the motu. A plethora of talent and staff committed their best towards the game as NZRL is pleased to announce the 2021 NZRL Grassroots Awards.

The Grassroots Rugby League Club of the Year Award for 2021 was highly contested. NZRL would like to recognise runner up clubs; Turangawaewae, Bell Block Marist, Whiti Te Ra and the Timaru Outlaws. Each club has significantly contributed to the growth of the game and its opportunities in their respective regions.

The Otara Scorpion’s dedication and commitment both on and off the field saw them awarded the prestigious Grassroots Club of the Year Award for 2021.

Situated in the heart of South Auckland, the Otara Scorpions have done incredible mahi to cater towards its staff, players and community. As a club, they managed to open new clubrooms, start a Junior Academy development programme and most notably, organise several high-profile drive-thru vaccination events that saw thousands of their community members rally together to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

CEO of NZRL Greg Peters says, “In what was another testing year, Otara RL Club put the needs of their communities above all else, epitomising our More Than A Game and Kiwi Way philosophies. Thank you to all involved in the club for their important mahi; they’ve had a widespread and positive impact on the wellbeing of our communities.”

The Men’s National Competition Player of the Year was awarded to Upper Central Zone’s Tony Matautia. Matautia’s Stallions side came away with the National trophy after his scintillating hat-trick in the final, earning him Player of the Match.

After a stellar season with Canterbury, Kiwi Fern #144 Charntay Poko was named the National Women’s Competition Player of the Year. Poko brought her international professionalism and leadership, guiding her Canterbury side to a Sky Sport Women’s championship victory.

The NZRL 16s Youth Competition Player of the Year went to Mid-Central’s Kylem Vunipola. Described by his coaching staff as ‘effective, well-mannered and considerate,’ Vunipola starred both on and off the field, making the fullback spot his own each week.

Tome Poona of Upper-Central Zone took out this year’s NZRL 18s Youth Competition Player of the Year. The NZRL School’s representative captained his side to a grand final success earning the Player of the Final accolade. Poona showed exceptional leadership in a difficult, Covid interrupted season.

The National 20s Player of the Year went to competition MVP Zyon Maiu’u. The Kelston Boys product led his undefeated Auckland Blue side right to the grand final, where they were unable to overcome an inspired Central Districts outfit.

After that fairy-tale run to the trophy, Central Districts Head Coach Daniel McEwan received the National 20’s Coach of the Year Award.

Upper Central Head Coach Jeremy Siulepa took home National Coach of the Year, and Mid-Central Vipers 16s Head Coach Shaun Egan was awarded the National Youth Coach of the Year. Both coaches successfully led their sides to competition titles throughout several regional lockdowns.

Paki Parkinson took home Match Official of the Year for the second year running after refereeing the National Competition Final.

The 2021 Pirtek Volunteer of the Year was awarded to July winner Raymond Greaves.

Four years ago, Raymond began volunteering for Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL); he brings passion and vitality at every opportunity, investing hours into creating, planning, and executing disability-specific programmes for PDRL players.

Pirtek CEO Chris Bourke commented, “Although he has only been a volunteer for the past four years, Raymond provides a truly positive experience for Physical Disability Rugby League and the people involved. Raymond is now Head Coach and exemplifies the core values of NZRL’s Kiwi Way, being family first, innovative, inclusive, respectful and humble.” 

NZRL CEO Greg Peters says, “These awards recognise exceptional work in our grassroots, domestic and community space both on and off the field. We congratulate each recipient on their outstanding achievement.

“Thank you to those in our rugby league communities who continue to go above and beyond for our game. In what was another challenging year, it’s the dedication of our people that keep rugby league thriving – thank you.”

2021 Grassroots Community Award Winners

Club of the Year – Otara Rugby League Club (Counties Manukau)

Men’s Competition Player of the Year – Tony Matautia (Upper Central Zone) 

Women’s Competition Player of the Year – Charntay Poko (Canterbury) 

16’s Youth Competition Player of the Year – Kylem Vunipola (Mid-Central Zone) 

18’s Youth Competition Player of the Year – Tome Poona (Upper Central-Zone) 

20’s Player of the Year – Zyon Maiu’u  (Auckland) 

20’s Coach of the Year – Daniel McEwan (Central Districts) 

Youth Competition Coach of the Year – Shaun Egan (Mid Central Zone)

National Competition Coach of the Year – Jeremy Siulepa (Upper Central Zone) 

Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson 

Pirtek Volunteer of the Year – Raymond Greaves (Physical Disability Rugby League)