The Cronulla Sharks will this week celebrate Junior League in ‘Play NRL’ round – a week that honours all of those involved in grassroots Rugby League.
Junior Rugby League is set for a big year in 2015, with close to 100,000 players registered from U6s to U18s, across Australia.
Judd O’Shea, Secretary of Junior Rugby League in the Sutherland district, said young players would not be able to enjoy the many pleasures of our great game without the work of the unsung heroes – the volunteers.
“We cannot run Rugby League without volunteers. It is impossible,” said O’Shea. “Without the volunteers, there is no such thing as Rugby League.
“It all stems from those mums and dads when they get in there when their child is four-years-old, and they’re still around when their kid’s playing A-grade at 40.”
Cronulla-Caringbah’s Charlie Bate knows all too well of the cold winter’s nights and early weekend mornings which await many a volunteer across the district.
Bate, 71, has been involved in the Cronulla competition for close to five decades, and is a life member of the Cronulla-Caringbah Sharks and the Cronulla Sutherland Junior Rugby League Association
Bate’s prolonged service to the local area Junior League, Cronulla-Caringbah and the Cronulla Sutherland Leagues Club has seen him nominated for the 2015 Clubs NSWs ‘Heart of the Community Award’.
While the veteran has given up countless hours in assisting the Junior League’s operation, he said he does not do so in search of awards, or public recognition, for his service.
“The thing I love the most is seeing the men I used to coach grow up and bring their own families into the Rugby League community,” said Bate.
“The people in our district really cherish the sport because it helps unite the community through our passion, dedication and respect for fellow club members.”
Bate’s commitment to Cronulla-Caringbah has had a widespread impact across the rest of the district, and O’Shea credits the ongoing work of the 71-year-old.
“Charlie’s been a part of the junior league for over 50 years, which is now the longest standing volunteer in the history of the junior league – which is a huge thing,” said O’Shea.
“He’s done everything. I can’t sum it up in to one.
“He’s basically been the Junior League, and been a part of every major decision and major event in the Junior League for 50 years.”
Having known Charlie – and of the many roles he’s performed – for more than 30 years, O’Shea said the nomination for the Heart of The Community Award came as little surprise.
“I was extremely proud of him,” said O’Shea.
“There wouldn’t be a position, except from executive, that he hasn’t sat on the board and taken a part of.
“I don’t think Cronulla-Caringbah is Charlie, or Charlie is Cronulla-Caringbah, I think it’s one.”
While Bate is just one account of the many great people involved in grassroots football, O’Shea said that children involved in Junior League would find the experience one that is truly rewarding.
“One of the best things about Rugby League is you can get out on the football field and run at each other, and tackle each other for 35 minutes, but at the end of it you go an have a milkshake together,” he said.
“It’s not about the competition. Rugby League offers a camaraderie that no other sport can offer. That’s what Junior League is all about.”
The Clubs NSW award night will be held at the Royal Hall of Industries at Moore Park, on Friday, May 8.
The Cronulla Sharks wish Charlie the best of luck in taking out the award.