THE reputation of the Southern Downs for producing many top rugby league stars received a further boost last night when Heather Ballinger won the Queensland Rugby League Women's Representative Player of the Year award.
While she didn't play rugby league while boarding for her secondary education at The Scots PGC College in Warwick, Ballinger was a star in track and field in the same era as Stephanie Hancock and Jo Barrett, two players with whom she shared World Cup success.
Barrett has retired but Hancock is now Queensland and Australian Jillaroos captain.
Ballinger's win was announced in front of 350 guests at the Brisbane City Hall.
A numbered Queensland female representative players list was unveiled, while NRL CEO Dave Smith presented former captain Karyn Murphy with a commemorative jersey honouring her service to the game.
The second winner with a Darling Downs connection was Toowoomba Clydesdales player Gerome Burns who shared the Mal Meninga Cup Player of the Year award with Trai Fuller (CQ Capras).
Patrick Templeman, a Sunshine Coast junior who joined the Seagulls this year after a stint with the Canterbury Bulldogs, won the Courier Mail Medal for Intrust Super Player of the Year after impressed for Wynnum at both fullback and five-eighth.
The 22-year-old dominated the voting with 34 points, nine clear of Hunters five-eighth and skipper Israel Eliab (25).
Templeman's Wynnum Manly teammate Mitchell Frei finished in third on 23 points, while Robert Lui (Townsville, 22), Ryley Jacks (Burleigh 20), Luke Capewell (Redcliffe, 19), Cameron Cullen (Mackay, 19) and Matt Parcell (Ipswich, 19) were also prominent.
The dominant season of the Townsville & Districts Blackhawks was acknowledged when the competition newcomers were presented with the John 'Cracker' McDonald Minor Premiership Shield.
2015 QRL Award Winners:
- Carbine Club Rookie of the Year: Aaron Rockley (Wynnum Manly Seagulls)
- Courier-Mail Medal: Patrick Templeman (Wynnum Manly Seagulls)
- John 'Cracker' McDonald Minor Premiership Shield: Townsville & Districts Blackhawks
- Spotless Club Championship: Wynnum Manly Seagulls
- FOGS Colts Challenge Player of the Year: Sam Grant (Burleigh Bears)
- XXXX Representative Player of the Year: Shaun Nona (Easts Tigers)
- Stage and Screen Coach of the Year: Michael Marum (PNG Hunters)
- Struddys Intrust Super Cup Leading Points Scorer: Luke Capewell (Redcliffe Dolphins)
- Struddys Intrust Super Cup Leading Try Scorer: Marmin Barba (Ipswich Jets)
- XXXX People's Choice Award: Wartovo Puara (PNG Hunters)
- Canterbury Cyril Connell Cup Player of the Year: Ben Thomas (Gold Coast White)
- Canterbury Mal Meninga Cup Player of the Year: Gerome Burns (Toowoomba Clydesdales) and Trai Fuller (CQ Capras)
- Women's Representative Player of the Year: Heather Ballinger