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Posted by RLPA

September 17, 2023

Lenarduzzi and Graham nab 2023 Dennis Tutty Awards

The Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) is pleased to announce Wade Graham and Chelsea Lenarduzzi as the two winners of the 2023 Dennis Tutty Awards, with Graham becoming the first-ever two-time recipient of the prestigious honour after receiving the award in 2022.

The Dennis Tutty Award is awarded annually to a current rugby league player who has demonstrated outstanding:

a Leadership on and off the field;

b Commitment to their fellow players & to the advancement and protection of their rights; and

c Service and dedication to the game of rugby league.

Both Graham and Lenarduzzi have been recognised as Dennis Tutty Award winners for 2023 following the longest CBA negotiation in the history of rugby league, a dispute that required brave and unprecedented player action to achieve the best outcome possible for NRL and NRLW players.

Chelsea Lenarduzzi was the second female rugby league player to join the RLPA Board of Directors when she was appointed as a casual vacancy in June 2022. Chelsea was also a member of the inaugural Women’s Player Advisory Group, formed in 2019.

Lina Caccamo, the RLPA’s GM of Elite Women and International Relations, praised Chelsea’s commitment to the playing group and her advocacy on their behalf:

“Chelsea has been an invaluable and indispensable advocate for the players throughout 2023. For the playing group, the year was full of struggle and resistance as they fought for a fair, reasonable, and first-ever CBA for female rugby league players. Chelsea will be forever known as a player who was crucial to the success of the players’ fight and their history-making CBA.

“Whether it was Player Advisory Group meetings, player leader meetings, Board meetings and inside negotiations, Chelsea selflessly continued to turn up for the collective when they needed her the most.

“The knowledge and experience she brought at every moment has now helped pave the way for current and future players to receive the best terms and conditions they have ever had. We’re incredibly grateful to have her as part of the RLPA leadership structure and proud of her commitment to all players and what she has achieved for them.

“On behalf of the RLPA, we congratulate Chelsea for receiving this well-deserved recognition as a Dennis Tutty Award winner”

Wade Graham
Wade Graham wins the 2023 Dennis Tutty Award

Wade Graham started as a Delegate and then a member of the Player Advisory Group before his appointment to the RLPA Board in May 2019. 

Clint Newton, the Chief Executive Officer of the RLPA, praised Wade’s commitment and the amount of work he has selflessly committed to in the final year of his playing career.

“Many might have expected Wade to take his foot off the gas for the RLPA in the final year of his playing career, but his commitment towards his fellow players, despite retiring, is just another illustration of his character and selflessness. 

“Wade showed that his great determination to achieve the best outcomes for players in 2023 meant more than any possible self-interest. 

“The workload placed on Wade this year, during the longest and most contentious CBA negotiation, was more than they had been at any time during his tenure at the RLPA. However, Wade is a natural leader for the players and the Association, and how he approached all the additional commitments will leave a legacy many will benefit from. 

“He is intelligent and pragmatic but unwavering in his values and stands firm on his beliefs. Because of these traits, it was clear that he was hugely respected by all parties during the CBA negotiations. 

“It is bittersweet knowing that, as a retiring player, his time at the Association as a player leader is coming to a close. Yet, we are so thankful to him for the time, energy, knowledge and experience he has brought to RLPA as he gracefully represented the collective for many years. Personally, I will never forget how he made me feel to lead a person of his stature. 

“On behalf of the RLPA, I would like to congratulate Wade for being recognised as a Dennis Tutty Award winner for 2023 and becoming the first ever player to win the award twice.”

About the 2023 Dennis Tutty Award nominees from the NRLW:

Millie Boyle:

As a member of the RLPA Player Advisory Group since 2019, Millie has actively contributed to the Association. In her advocacy and promotion of player interests, she continues to use her platform to educate, inform and share the views of the players and RLPA, regardless of public scrutiny.

Karina Brown:

Throughout her career, Karina has been a stalwart of the game and has dug the well on many occasions to improve conditions for her teammates. In supporting player action throughout the CBA, Karina did a commendable job and should be celebrated for her courage in the face of opposition for the player position.

Abbi Church:

As an invaluable member of the RLPA player Delegates, Abbi attends player meetings, participates in media requests, and advocates not only for her team but for the entire collective. Amidst all the additional commitments placed on players during the CBA period, Abbi continued to support the players and RLPA.

Chelsea Lenarduzzi:

Chelsea has consistently advocated for the players. She strives to ensure that the best terms, conditions, and protections for the players are achieved. Her role during the CBA negotiation process included attending numerous meetings, addressing the media on multiple occasions, rallying player support, and helping the RLPA achieve the first women’s CBA.

About the 2023 Dennis Tutty Award nominees from the NRL:

Tom Burgess:

Tom has been a consistent Delegate during much of his career and has become a key contributor throughout CBA negotiations. Tom joined the PAG in 2023 and has proven to be a valuable addition. He’s attended important CBA meetings, spoken passionately, and represented the players during the high-pressure press conference announcing the players’ media boycott.

Kurt Capewell:

Kurt has attacked his role as a Delegate and Player Advisory Group Member with fierce determination. Having represented the Panthers and now the Broncos as a Delegate, his elevation to the PAG provided a platform for Kurt to showcase his courage to call out issues in the game and throughout CBA negotiations. He also played a role in key CBA meetings representing the collective playing group. 

Daly Cherry-Evans:

Daly’s commitment to securing a new and improved CBA has been immense. He has dedicated countless hours representing the collective, joining a multitude of PAG and Board meetings, and attending CBA negotiations. Daly has also worn the responsibility of being General President by speaking publicly at several key junctures in negotiations, which showed leadership and provided great confidence to other player leaders.

Wade Graham:

An integral member of the RLPA throughout much of his career, Wade has demonstrated an unmatched commitment to the RLPA, where he has been a leader in CBA negotiations, key player meetings and public commentary. His ability to manage these commitments, alongside his club commitments, is a credit to his dedication to representing the collective.

Chad Townsend:

Chad has been an incredibly engaged Delegate at both the Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys, and in 2022 was elevated to the Player Advisory Group. As a club captain, he has consistently demonstrated the courage to represent the collective playing group publicly and in important CBA negotiations, as well as provide informed direction to the RLPA.

Winners of the Dennis Tutty Award:

  • 2023 Chelsea Lenarduzzi (NRLW)
  • 2023 Wade Graham (NRL)
  • 2022 Hannah Southwell (NRLW)
  • 2022 Wade Graham (NRL)
  • 2021 Ali Brigginshaw (NRLW)
  • 2021 Christian Welch (NRL)
  • 2020 Blake Green
  • 2019 David Gower
  • 2018 Jason Nightingale
  • 2017 James Maloney
  • 2016 Dene Halatau
  • 2015 Tom Symonds
  • 2014 Nate Myles
  • 2013 Clint Newton
  • 2012 Robbie Farah
  • 2011 Andrew Ryan
  • 2010 Petero Civoniceva
  • 2009 Michael Gordon
  • 2008 Jason King

About Dennis Tutty:

Dennis Tutty played rugby league long before the days of full-time professionalism. Before colour TV, Tina Turner and the NRL. When players played almost exclusively for their local clubs and, first and foremost, for their love of the game. Unfortunately, in this romanticised era of rugby league, where the greats of Arthur Beetson and Ron Coote made their names, player rights were often a passing thought for the game’s administrators.

Dennis’ actions in challenging the NSWRL’s transfer system in 1968, at great personal sacrifice, were not only pivotal in the emergence of a player’s rights movement but paved the way for the professionals of today.

The RLPA will ensure that Dennis’s legacy is never forgotten, and all players are reminded of the benefits his sacrifices provide them.

Chelsea Lenarduzzi
Chelsea Lenarduzzi
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