Rugby League is playing its part in breaking down the stigma around disabilities with the Wests Tigers winning NRL Club Community Program of the Year at the NRL Community Awards for excellence in their Varying Abilities Program.
The program has been a core focus for the club since 2017 and delivers modified activities for children with disabilities such as physical and developmental needs.
Wests Tigers outside back Corey Thompson joined students at Mater Dei Camden for the NRL's announcement and despite being stirred by the students about the side's exit prior to the finals, was proud the joint venture had been recognised for their work off the paddock.
"I think it's massive, when you look at a football club sometimes you see coaches and their staff and talk about when they win or lose and that's it," Thompson told NRL.com.
"But all the team behind the scenes that go out to schools every day and promote the Tigers, especially kids with special needs, they don't get many opportunities to be at the centre of these awards.
"It is really rewarding for our players to get out into the local communities and put a smile on children's faces."
A group of 30 students were put through their paces in a skills-based program designed around the fundamentals of the game.
NRL Club Community Program of the Year - Varying Abilities Program; Wests Tigers
Wests Tigers community coordinator Cassandra Ewens believes the exposure will help others identify and respect people with a disability.
"There's a misconception on what these kids can and can't do," she said.
"A lot of them can keep up with us if you give them a chance. Some of them learn better through sport than the classroom. It's a special moment for us and huge for these people they are recognised.
"You can see how impactful it is on them and the people who have come out to support them."
The award is proudly supported by the NSW Government and New South Wales Minister for Multiculturalism and Disability Services, Ray Williams MP acknowledged the need for further disability programs in local communities.
"The NRL has always celebrated their culturally diverse roots and have done that very well," Williams said.
"The fact it can be an inclusive game by modifying aspects so everyone gets the opportunity then I think it's seen perfectly through programs.
"Wests Tigers have taken that to a new level with their varying ability program. They're hands-on, touching the footy, learning how to pass and put the ball down.
"They're feeling a part of rugby league and the program run celebrates the differences and breaks down the barriers and aspects of bullying."
NRL Community Awards 2018