Connor Watson has won this year's Ken Stephen Medal for his work in the community throughout the 2020 season.
The announcement was made at ANZ Stadium ahead of kick off to the NRL Grand Final, with Watson recognised for his work on the 'Boots for Brighter Futures' initiative which ran during this year's Indigenous Round.
Watson joins an illustrious list of former winners, which includes Peter Sterling, Paul Harragon, Andrew Ettingshausen, Preston Campbell and Johnathan Thurston.
Fresh off signing a new deal with the Club, Watson's initiative has grown from painting one pair of boots to having them done for the entire squad, as well as players from the Gold Coast Titans, Wests Tigers and New Zealand Warriors.
His family's charity, the Cultural Choice Association, of which Watson is a Director, aims to raise awareness and to support the prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Youth Suicide and its related causes in Australia.
The boots were painted by Indigenous kids in a range of detention centres and youth hostels.
Watson launches 2020 Boots campaign
Boots were auctioned after Indigenous Round, raising thousands of dollars across the last two years.
“Our inspiration for the Cultural Choice Association (CCA) came about through my family’s journey”, Watson said.
“In 2017, I lost my cousin at the age of 17 to youth suicide.
"As a family faced with the rising tragedy of youth suicide (in particular Indigenous Youth suicide) it was at this point that the focus and passion to make a difference in the lives of young aboriginal people gained impetus and CCA was established.
“The Boots for Brighter Future initiative began three years ago with dad painting my boots as a way for us to celebrate our culture, when I approached the Knights about doing the whole team they were really supportive and got behind us and all of the boys were keen to be a part of it too."
Watson claimed the medal ahead of Martin Taupau, Reed Mahoney and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, after a shortlist was determined by a panel featuring inaugural 1988 Ken Stephen Medallist and ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce.
The medal recognises the efforts of an NRL player who has not only achieved on the field, but has committed time off the field to community projects.
2020 is the second straight year Watson has been shortlisted, however this represents the first time he has won.