HEXHAM resident Stephen Ball wears many hats when you see him around town.

A member of Hexham Town Council, he is mayor in waiting after being elected deputy mayor last year and he also plays a pivotal role in the success of Hexham Community Centre as its chairman of trustees.

But away from the Tyne Valley town he now comes home, he continues to play a hugely influential role in his beloved sport of rugby league.

Since 2006, Ball has been the driving force behind the development of the Rugby League Benevolent Fund, a scheme to support rugby players and their families cope with life-changing circumstances.

Such has been his role in the sport, he was inducted into the Rugby Football League’s elite roll of honour in the summer in recognition of his outstanding service, which has also included roles as director of the league, director of Leeds Rhinos, chief executive of Hull FC, and chairman of both Batley and Hunslet.

Through his role in the benevolent fund, Ball has helped families of rugby players cope with some tragic circumstances.

He was there to assist the loved ones of former Workington and Whitehaven Garry Purdham in 2010 when he was shot dead by Cumbrian taxi driver Derrick Bird, who killed 12 people and injured 11 others on June 2 before committing suicide later that day.

Ball was again a huge help to the family of Danny Jones who collapsed and died while playing for Keighley Cougars due to an undiagnosed heart issue in 2015 – his assistance at the time a huge consolation to Jones’ widow who had recently given birth to twins.

When Archie Bruce died just hours after his professional debut for Bately in France last year, and when Ronan Costello passed following a tragic accident during a Huddersfield Giants academy game in 2016, Hexham’s big hearted man was again on hand to help their families through the grieving stage.

Ball is doing a great job getting more people involved in rugby league in Tynedale too, especially through work with Hexham Middle School.

He helped acquire 40 new strips for the school through the Harry Sykes Fund, and also recently arranged for the Rugby League Challenge Cup to visit the school.