Sale Sharks star Marland Yarde has been named as the Premiership Rugby Community Player of the Year for his work supporting Manchester homeless charity Centrepoint.
Winger Marland, 29, kicked off a partnership between Sharks and Centrepoint after a chance meeting with a homeless man at a cashpoint in Manchester city centre last year.
Inspired by how the man came to be living on the streets and the support he had received from Centrepoint, Marland decided he wanted to do something to support Manchester’s homeless community and contacted the charity himself.
Before Christmas, the 13-cap England man dropped off around 1,000 items of clothing and vital toiletries donated by players and club staff.
And the club also launched a virtual collection bucket, which Sharks fans have used to raise almost 1000 pounds for Centrepoint.
And then earlier this year, Marland joined Sharks chefs in the kitchen as the club cooked up more than 75 hot meals for hostels in the city
Speaking after receiving the award, Marland said: “All of us, me included, have been guilty in the past of turning a blind eye to people when they ask for help. But we need to do more to give these young people the opportunity to get back on their feet.
“I’m so proud to receive this award but I couldn’t have done this without the support of the club. Community is at the heart of everything we do and as players we’re encouraged to go out and make a difference.
“This is just the start. I’m determined to continue to use my platform to do more because the problem isn’t going away. In fact, because of the pandemic it’s just getting worse.”
Marland was joined on the prestigious shortlist by Gloucester Rugby’s Ollie Thorley, Harlequins’ Paul Lasike and Wasps’ Jimmy Gopperth.
Sarah Griffiths, Director of Communications at Gallagher and a member of the judging panel, said: “All four of our shortlisted players deserve to be recognised for the great work they are doing to influence positive change in their local communities. Marland Yarde was, however, the undeniable standout finalist and unanimously backed by our judging panel to take home the trophy.
“He is inspirational, practical and passionate about making a difference – and this is born out in the tangible benefits the Sharks’ collective efforts are delivering.
“From a chance cashpoint encounter with a young man helped by the charity to organising a 1000-item ‘coat drop’, to personally putting together and delivering 75 food boxes, to liaising with local restaurants to commit to ongoing support, to looking to provide coaching to the young people Centrepoint works with – Marland continues to demonstrate his dedication to making a difference.
“Community is what connects and inspires us every day at Gallagher.
“Having seen how Marland has galvanised his club, colleagues and local businesses to help protect the most vulnerable in his community, there is no more fitting winner for this year’s Gallagher Community Player of the Season award.”
Owain Davies, CEO of the Level Playing Field charity, who was also on the judging panel, said: “The candidates shortlisted had all done some brilliant, diverse, work.
“But I think with Marland in particular, the application he put forward was something that was there to benefit the wider community.
“Homelessness in Manchester is a major issue and he has looked at his situation and thought ‘how can I use the skills I have got to bring about meaningful change?’
“He not only engaged himself in the cause but his teammates, the club owner and the foundation.
“The charity Centrepoint said that, during those winter months, what people need in this situation is having practical, emotional and effective support, and he delivered on all levels.
“Hopefully this will be a catalyst and inspire others. Marland using his profile is an effective and powerful tool for good.”