Coast's volunteer of year

Behind the scenes of every grass roots rugby league club is a team of volunteers working tirelessly to develop and improve their clubs. For the Helensvale Hornets, one of those people is Leanne Watts.

Like most club volunteers, Leanne’s involvement at the Hornets started innocently when she offered to be manager of her son’s team when nobody else put their hand up.

“My son started playing and his team needed a manager but nobody was putting their hand up,” she said.

“I ended up doing that role for two years before I was approached to be the club registrar.

“I was a bit skeptical about the workload at the start, but ended up giving it a go and have enjoyed my involvement.

“I’ve been really lucky to receive good support from the president of Helensvale who had the confidence in me to let me do my own thing and put my own stamp on the role, and I think that’s worked out really well.”

Ten years after first putting her hand up as manager, Leanne can be found at the club every match day from 6.30am until 7pm, a labour of love rewarded with life membership of the Helensvale Hornets this year.

As a result of her dedication and hard work, Leanne was this week recognised as the Gold Coast Titans Women In League Volunteer of the Year, a feature of the NRL’s Women In League round. She is pictured here (at right) with Titans chairman Rebecca Frizelle and SeaFM's Charli Robinson, our match day on-ground compere.

She was selected ahead of two other outstanding candidates in Kate Frankcom, secretary of Parkwood Sharks, and the secretary of Nerang Roosters, Michelle Fitzgerald.

Titans game day and community manager Renee Cohen said Leanne was a worthy winner.

“It is very difficult to single out one lady from all of our clubs, as they all do an amazing job, juggling family, work and/or business, study and club responsibilities,” Ms Cohen said.

“This year has been particularly difficult job with so many outstanding candidates but Leanne is a deserved winner.”

Although surprised to win the award, Leanne said she was very proud of the achievement and was thrilled the hard work of women in rugby league was being acknowledged.

“It is really exciting and really nice to be recognised,” she said. “You give up a lot of time and there are some occasions where the role can be challenging, so to be recognised in this way where people can see the work you’re doing and all the hard work that goes into it is really nice, especially by people outside of our club.

“It’s a great idea of the NRL to have the Women In League round. It’s often the mothers doing the grunt of the work away from the actual games, whether that’s taking kids to training or helping with behind the scenes work. It is great we’re receiving special recognition, it’s important.”

Leanne says it is satisfying to reflect on how much the club has grown and developed since she first turned up a decade ago.

“Our family has been at the Hornets for 10 years now,” she said. “When we first got here it was a small club and now we’re one of the bigger clubs on the Gold Coast.

“There is a good group of people here that have done lots of hard work to make that happen and we’ve been able to instigate lots of beneficial changes to the club.”

It’s not just Leanne helping out at the Hornets, volunteering is a family affair. Daughter Madeleine played rugby league until she was 12 and can often be seen helping in the canteen, while husband Gavin is a coach and son Cameron plays in the under-16s. Leanne says the whole family has always tried to be involved.

“My love for the game stems from the enjoyment I get from watching my children,” she said. “Both of our kids are active and love sport, and my passion for the sport rolls on from that.

“The reason Gavin and I got involved was out of a desire to make things better and more enjoyable for the kids, that meant volunteering and doing our part at the club.”

Away from the Helensvale Hornets, the Watts family still stay involved with the sport, regularly attending Titans home games.

“We all enjoy going to watch the Titans,” she said.

“It’s a great stadium and it’s so easy here on the Gold Coast with train right next door, we all love going.”

The efforts of Kate and Michelle are also worthy of recognition.

Kate and her family are relatively new to Parkwood Sharks, and since taking on the role of secretary this year, she has had numerous challenges to overcome (both personally and at the club). Until recently, Kate also took on the role of registrar (with very little knowledge of what was required), and continues to assist the new registrar. Kate is also a LeagueSafe official, a student nurse, and mother.  

Michelle and her family are devoted members of Nerang Roosters, and this is evident in the many hours they all spend at the club. In recent years they have thrown many challenges at the club, and through it all Michelle’s loyalty to the club and the league has never faltered. This year Michelle also took on the role of registrar for the first part of the year, and now supports the club’s new registrar.