NRL’s emotional grand final ring tribute
The NRL is paying tribute to Australia's frontline heroes by adorning this year's premiership rings with a picture of a firefighter and a nurse.
Every member of the team that wins Sunday's grand final between the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm will receive one of the rings, which are valued at more than $10,000.
ICU nurse Lyndal Keith was delighted at the gesture to honour the men and women at the forefront of the country's responses to the national bushfire crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"For emergency staff, it has been a really difficult year," Keith said. "We have stuck together and with the community support, we've pulled through.
"It is lovely that we are being acknowledged, that people have thought of us and seen the work that we do.
"COVID has brought to the forefront the work that we do as frontline emergency services and working in emergency departments."
Keith and Chief Superintendent Fire NSW, Kenneth Murphy, worked on the rings with Sydney's Affinity Diamonds founder Sam Rahme and based the design on artwork by Canberran Mick Ashley.
The rings with feature a firefighter handing a rugby league ball to a nurse. Each is set with two carats of diamonds and sapphires totalling 160.
A premiership ring for the WNRL will feature the same etching but with diamonds and rubies.
"The biggest thing about this is that whole acknowledgement of everybody that has been involved," Murphy said.
"From a fire and rescue point of view, it is the people in the background, the admin staff, the mechanics and logistics, all of those that don't maybe normally get the accolades that the frontline people get. This is something for them."
A replica ring will be donated to each of Australia's key emergency service departments.
League great Johnathan Thurston designed last year's premiership ring, while the NRL worked with Fox Sports presenters Yvonne Sampson and Lara Pitt to produce a women-inspired version.
A thankful Murphy said it had been a "relentless" 18 months, firstly with the fires and then the coronavirus.
Firefighters are now bracing themselves for warm weather over summer.
"It hasn't stopped," he said. "We are ready for the season and hoping for once that we actually get some good rains through summer.
"But who knows, the climate is very fickle and it could all change in a heartbeat."