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NRL 2023 Indigenous Leadership & Excellence award winners

The National Rugby League (NRL) and RLPA are pleased to announce Connor Watson and Tahlulah Tillett as the winners of the 2023 NRL and NRLW Indigenous Leadership & Excellence awards.

The awards have been announced as part of the NRL's Wellbeing & Education Awards, which acknowledge and celebrate the significant amount of dedication, commitment and effort NRL and NRLW players put in to their lives from the field.

The Indigenous Leadership & Excellence award recognises and celebrates current NRL and NRLW Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders players who are leading the way on the field and in their community.

The recipients must display an involvement and engagement in the areas of leadership, career and education development, as well as cultural engagement.

"I couldn’t be any prouder to see two young people I have known since they were teenagers recognised for the fantastic work they are doing on and off the field," Dean Widders, NRL Indigenous Programs Manager said.

"They are inspiring their fellow players and leading the way for everyone involved in the game. They work hard every day to better themselves on and off the field.

"Rugby league and our Indigenous communities can be very proud we have them both to represent our game. Our game is a platform for our players to educate people about our culture, to shine a light on the issues our communities face and help inspire our people to overcome the challenges they face."

Watson was one of three finalists for the NRL award alongside Latrell Mitchell and Reimis Smith while Kaitlyn Phillips and Bobbi Law were finalists for the NRLW award with Tillett.

NRL Winner – Connor Watson (Roosters)

A proud Gamilaroi Man, Connor's leadership qualities and his ability to inspire and encourage others to explore various aspects of their lives beyond football are commendable. Connor takes the initiative to organise activities and events within the club that promote cultural, creative, emotional, and academic exploration. Connor supports the club’s community department and is a director of the Cultural Choice Association – a not-for-profit association whose mission is to raise awareness and support the prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicide. This impact on the Indigenous playing group will leave a long legacy. 

NRLW Winner – Tahlulah Tillett (Cowboys)

Tahlulah is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman that takes the time to mentor other young aspiring rugby league players and encourages them to be proud of their communities. While having played in the NRLW and All Stars, Tahlulah works in the Cowboys community department – helping to present many healthy messages to schools and community groups. Tahlulah is aware of the opportunities she has with her rugby league profile and tries to use that to make the most positive impact she can.

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.