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Footy and FIFO a way of life for DebThursday, May 14, 2015 - 1:45 PM - by Georgia Raven

"You just have to get involved in everything the kids do, roll your sleeves up and off you go."

Deb Thoars has been a volunteer at the Newman National Football League in the Pilbara region for 12 years.

"We've always lived in the country and loved supporting the local football team the Newman Tigers." she said. "From the time our son started playing football I was washing jumpers, scoring, waving flags or running water."

Deb has taken on nearly every role possible in the country football league including President, and Secretary and has also taken the reigns as Treasurer, Secretary, Vice-President and President for the Tigers.

Deb modestly waved off her achievements claiming it's just what you do when you have time.

"You don't think of yourself as a volunteer you just know that you got to help because whatever you do will help your kid's experience or the kids on the team."

The Pilbara region, the hub of iron ore production, is home to many fly-in-fly-out workers who are away from their families and friends.

With her son and husband both FIFO workers Deb knows just how important it is to make sure these people feel welcomed into the community.

"Being up in Newman a lot of young FIFO workers who are away from their families come to the games and it's good to have a sit down and a chat about their wives and their kids."

Deb has been nominated twice for the Sunday Times Volunteer of the Year award and was crowned last year's winner at the WAFL Sandover Medal count.

"I had an absolute ball," Deb said.

"People came up to me and congratulated me, it was just amazing. Then we went to the casino and ran amuck in there and finished up at about three in the morning."

The Casino was a highlight for Deb but nothing beat having the chance to talk with West Coast Eagles players Matt Priddis and Nic Naitanui.

"Nic remembered me from up in Newman six years ago and knowing that I just couldn't get the smile off my face."

The Sunday Times Volunteer of the Year is awarded to one of 17 regional and district finalists who win a trip for two to the Grand Final.

"We met all the other volunteers and their partners from the other states and we all got on from the very get go," Deb said. "All the people who are nominated are well-deserving winners and everyone that volunteers in any sport are amazing."

Volunteers are critical to the survival of community football and the award aims to elevate people who dedicate their time to the sport.

"It's just everything about being in a club," she said. "You feel like a family and you stick together."

Deb is well known for her cheeky but smart practices, which include putting lollies in the first aid box for the boys at half time and having an emergency box of undies at hand.

"The boys aren't allowed to wear boxers under their sport shorts so I always had a packet of small, medium, large and extra large bonds knickers in the storeroom."

Deb and her husband have recently made the move to Perth and are heading to the Pinjarra Tigers football game this weekend to reignite their volunteering ways.

"We met them during training last week and it felt like we were at home," she said. "It doesn't matter what it is that I help out with, but I can't wait to get back into it.

The WAFC urges clubs to recognise and nominate all volunteers no matter how big or small their role. To nominate someone who you think is a worthy contender for the Volunteer of the Year award click here.

2014 Sunday Times 'Volunteer of the Year' Deb Thoars