Clarkson Primary School teacher, Joondalup Giants Junior Rugby League Club finalists in 2018 NRL Community Awards

Teacher Andrew Shepherd with year 5 and 6 students. Photo: Martin Kennealey
Teacher Andrew Shepherd with year 5 and 6 students. Photo: Martin Kennealey

CLARKSON Primary School teacher Andrew Shepherd has been recognised nationally for his work integrating rugby league into his classrooms and lessons.

He has been named a finalist in the 2018 NRL Community Awards for Teacher of the Year.

Mr Shepherd, who has been a primary teacher for eight years and involved with NRL WA for five years, said it was “humbling” to be a finalist, following his selection as the state under-12s coach through School Sports WA.

“Clarkson Primary School has a proud history of being involved and supporting rugby league and I love being a part of the sport,” he said.

He said he is passionate about rugby league and the role it played in the physical and social development of his students.

“It teaches them a variety of different life skills including team work, interpersonal skills, discipline and feeling like they belong to a group,” he said.

He said some students did not get the opportunity to play club sports.

“The program we present at Clarkson Primary School gives students a chance to develop their skills at no cost to their parents,” he said.

“Students’ attendance at before-school training is encouraged and after training we run a breakfast club for the players.”

Also from the northern suburbs, the Joondalup Giants Junior Rugby League Club is a finalist for the Grassroots Club of the Year award.

Joondalup Giants Junior Rugby League Club is a finalist for the NRL Grassroots Club of the Year award.

President Gregg Pearson said it was a great honour for the Heathridge-based club following a difficult 12 months.

“With the 2017 launch of the Alkimos Tigers, the majority of our juniors moved clubs with their coaches,” he said.

“We worked hard to recruit early in the season and had just over 100 juniors but the season was tough with no sponsors so we worked hard to fundraise.

“When 2018 arrived, we reached out to local schools, community groups and other summer sports clubs to try and encourage people to join us at the Giants and we nearly doubled our numbers to 196 juniors.”

He said the club found sponsors and applied for community grants with the money going to keeping fees low and for training and match days, including supplying the gear needed.

It also launched a Pay It Forward campaign, providing boots and other gear to families that could not afford it, started junior breakfasts on game day and became an active supporter of the Movember Foundation following the loss of a father and friend earlier in the year.

The winners of the NRL Community Awards will be announced during the NRL finals series this month.

Meanwhile, the Joondalup Giants’ under-14s team has made it to this Sunday’s grand final.

Led by coach Jason McDonald, the team has won the past two grand finals as under-12s and under-13s.

They will take on the Willagee Bears at Dorrien Gardens in West Perth.