2 September 2022

Lightning Ridge local, Bradley Benjamin has been named Australia’s Philips Community Sports Dad of the Year winner

Bradley Benjamin lives in a town famous for its black opals, but for the Lightning Ridge Junior Rugby League Club and community, he is a rare gem.

That’s why Bradley has been crowned this year’s Philips Community Sports Dad of the Year.

The vice president of the Lightning Ridge JRL club and Under 12’s coach, Bradley has played a major part in keeping rugby league thriving at grassroots level in the remote NSW mining community since moving west from Sydney 12 years ago.

“Brad loves the kids and they love him,” Chantelle King, one of a dozen people who nominated Bradley for this year’s honour, said.

“He loves footy. He loves to involve himself in the community every chance he gets and he puts his hand up straight away, you can find him at all our kids events or chaperoning them to the events.

“Brad is amazing. Last school holidays I heard about Brad going away to a footy carnival in Miles, Queensland.

“Brad and his family took kids to the week-long carnival just because they wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise.

“I thought that was so kind and generous but that wasn’t all … he drove the kids back home to Lightning Ridge and then picked up other kids and drove them to Cunnamulla in Queensland so they could participate in another weeklong carnival He really is a father figure to all our kids when he isn’t being a big kid himself!”

A humble Bradley wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I am honoured to have received such an award but I do what I do for the love of it and I’m excited to share the very generous prize with the community to further help the kids,” Bradley said.

”Living in a rural and remote community you realise the importance of community sport and the huge role it plays in everyone’s lives.

“Sport is an outlet for not only our kids to stay healthy and active but for our families – especially during recent times with our community suffering the effects of covid and flooding on the back of years of drought. 

“The social aspect sport brings to communities is invaluable – together we are supporting each other during footy season and making lifelong friendships and overcoming challenges.

“The wider Lightning Ridge community is supportive of one another and passionate about sport so it was an easily decision to be involved with the club.

“Our families travel many hours – around 250km one way in fact – each week to get our kids together to do what they love and play footy.”

Bradley has three boys, Blake 13, Riley 11 and seven-year-old Levi who all love their football as much as him.

“I love rugby league,” he said. “I played as a youngster for the Leichhardt Wanders for eight years.

“To be able to enjoy something with my own kids watching them grow, develop skills both on and off the field and making friends is what motivated me initially.

“Now to see all the kids benefiting from sport in the same way is what keeps me going. It really does take a village to raise kids these days and I’m happy to provide a safe and fun environment.”

Bradley played a key role in ensuring kids remained motivated during the Covid pandemic.

“Our numbers started to drop as the restrictions were in place and with borders closing and needing to travel across the border to play it almost shut us down,” he said. “We had to be creative and really check in with our families and kids to let them know we are doing all we can to keep a positive and active mind with all the lock down confusion.

“But we got through it together. The kids are always asking when is footy on and that kept me looking for more options.

“We’ve come out Covid trying to stop us to now floods and bad weather … but I just keep connecting with the kids.”

Bradley’s advice for parents right around the country is simple.

“Your small contribution really does go a long way in the hearts and minds of our young generations,” he said. “It is the kids who keep us young at heart.”

The $5000 Rebel Sports Voucher received as this year’s winner will be donated to the Lightning Ridge JRL Club for the purchase of sporting equipment and some gear will also be donated to kids.

On Father’s Day, Bradley intends to spend a quiet day with his family and put the feet up for once.

“I’d really like to thank Philips for getting behind such a great award” he said.

“Congratulations to all the super sport dads. Each and every year you are champions and keep making a difference within your communities.

“Thank you to everyone who nominated me … I am truly blessed to have such a great family and be a part of an awesome community.”

Other stories