The AFL is pleased to announce the four finalists for the 2020 Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award: Tayla Harris (Carlton Football Club), Bachar Houli (Richmond Football Club), Lauren Spark (Western Bulldogs Football Club) and Justin Westhoff (Port Adelaide Football Club). 

The Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award is presented annually to an AFL or AFLW player who has best demonstrated the values of the late former Melbourne Football Club President and player Jim Stynes, in their commitment to the community, helping others and making a difference and the way they played and represented the game on field.

Since entering the AFLW competition, Tayla has been a strong advocate of women's participation in sport through her career as an AFLW player and boxer. The leadership qualities she displays are evident in the esteem in which she is held by all her peers and the behaviour in which she conducts herself. She recognises the level of influence she can have within the community to bring about positive social change surrounding gender-based online abuse. 

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In 2020, she was announced as an ambassador for Our Watch. Our Watch is an organisation that has been established to drive nation-wide change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children. She has worked closely with Victoria's Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, The Hon. James Merlino, calling for all Australian's to understand the importance of preventing gender-based abuse online and explaining the effects it can have on someone. 

Tayla has taken on adversity and many challenges throughout her career and the one constant has been her positive attitude and resilience as a person. An incredibly strong ambassador for women in sport, Tayla is recognised as one of the most influential identities in AFLW based on her authenticity and passion.

Richmond Premiership player Bachar Houli has been nominated for his impact on the lives of young Islamic Australians and the broader community. He is regarded as a community leader and role model through the work of the Bachar Houli Foundation – an organisation he founded to promote social cohesion and harmony. Houli is now a prominent public figure thanks to his dedication and commitment to community work with Muslim youth and has been internationally recognised for his work. 

Richmond star Bachar Houli in action against Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos

In 2011, Bachar, with the support of the AFL multicultural programs, established the Bachar Houli Program engaging young Muslims in football through a series of community engagement and pathway programs for both male and females. In 2020, Bachar launched the Bachar Houli Foundation as a not-for-profit charitable organisation in partnership with the AFL and Richmond Football Club. Since the establishment of the program, the Bachar Houli Foundation has engaged over 30,000 young people and delivers nine unique national programs annually including the Bachar Houli Academies, Ramadan dinners, Bachar Houli Cup and employment program. 

Following the Victorian bushfires in January, Bachar volunteered his personal time to visit victims in Gippsland through local charity Human Appeal in January this year. Bachar worked with local agencies, cooking and distributing meals to frontline workers, taking photographs with locals and the 2019 Premiership Cup, and distributing merchandise he personally collected. Bachar made two visits to bushfire affected areas and supported the Human Appeal and My Centre fundraising events through social media promotion and event speaking engagements.

Since arriving at the Bulldogs in 2017, Lauren Spark has been a driver of the Club's community arm and acted as the inaugural ambassador for the Western Bulldogs Club Foundation and became a champion of the Daughters of the West women's health program. Volunteering her time over the course of three programs has seen Lauren engage with over 1500 women at program sessions and graduations to date. As an ambassador, Lauren has presented to countless women during the program's "Inspirational Women" topic, providing insight into her journey and the barriers she has overcome to get to where she is today.

Lauren Spark takes a selfie after the Bulldogs beat the Saints in round one. Picture: AFL Photos

In 2020, while juggling the demands of her job as a teacher, playing for the Bulldogs at an elite level, being a WBCF and Daughters of the West ambassador, Lauren has also devoted her time to an initiative she co-founded in 2015 called "CrossCoders". CrossCoders was borne from Lauren's commitment to making sure that every women and girl has the chances she missed out on when she had to give up the game she loved at 12 years old. CrossCoders is a global talent agency and sporting education program that allows female athletes opportunity to become a professional in Australian sport. Since 2018, Lauren's hard work, dedication and leadership has seen CrossCoders flourish. Her work has fostered pathways for girls and women (local and international) into AFLW and VFLW. Through this initiative, 15 women have been afforded the opportunity to play at an elite level. 

Justin Westhoff has been recognised for his long-standing commitment to community engagement and service as an Ambassador for the Hutt Street Centre, which aims to end homelessness and provide hope and opportunity for people to rebuild their lives without judgment. Justin regularly volunteers his time in the Hutt Street meal centre, preparing and serving meals along with spending valuable time with those who are facing homelessness.

Port Adelaide utility Justin Westhoff. Picture: Matt Turner/AFL Photos

Justin is a supporter of major fundraising events such as the annual Walk a Mile in My Boots which raises money to support the 6000 people experiencing homelessness in South Australia. As a result of COVID-19, the 2020 Walk a Mile in My Boots was held in a modified virtual format. Justin was instrumental in promoting and supporting the event which engaged 7000 people across Australia raising $600,000, almost double that of previous years.

The 2020 Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award will be presented as part of the broadcast of the 2020 Brownlow Medal on Sunday October 18, 2020.

AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said the award continues to honour the legacy that Jim Stynes left throughout the community.

"Our game delivers us some of our country's greatest role models and the finalists of the 2020 Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award showcases the impact the AFL can have in our community through a wide range of initiatives and causes," Mr McLachlan said.

"It is wonderful to acknowledge these four outstanding players and learn of their stories and celebrate their contribution to the community away from the football field."

Past winners include GWS GIANTS' Stephen Coniglio (2019), Melbourne's Neville Jetta (2018), Port Adelaide's Jack Hombsch (2017), Geelong's Jimmy Bartel (2016), Carlton's Dennis Armfield (2015), West Coast Eagles' Beau Waters (2014), Gold Coast Suns' Zac Smith (2013) and Richmond's Daniel Jackson (2012).

Nominations for the award are formed from AFL Clubs and the AFL Players Association before the judging panel selected the final four finalists.

Proudly supported by Telstra the AFL and the Jim Stynes Foundation, the winner will receive $40,000 to be donated to the charity or community program of their choice.

About the Jim Stynes Foundation

The Jim Stynes Foundation (JSF) perpetuates the work of the late Jim Stynes. Like Jim, the Foundation supports disadvantaged youth through his passion for sport, his allies and his charitable inceptions.

Public in nature, the Jim Stynes Foundation is a Public Ancillary Fund (PuAF) that distributes funds to worthy and specifically chosen registered charities. As a PuAF the public are invited to and can contribute to the Foundation. All contributions are then distributed to registered charities, as determined by the Foundation's board.

The 2020 Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award selection panel includes:

Sam Ludbey-Stynes – Jim Stynes Foundation
Luke Darcy – Network Seven & Triple M
Neil Mitchell – 3AW
Kim Williams – AFL Commissioner
Andrew Dillon – AFL General Counsel/General Manager Game Development
Sarah Fair – AFL General Manager - People
Jude Donnelly – AFL, Head of Government Relations & Corporate Social Responsibility
Brett Murphy – AFL PA Representative