Two Inspirational Sale Sharks Foundation Individuals Recognised at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards 2023

Today Premiership Rugby reveal a shortlist of twelve inspiring young rugby players, volunteers and coaches who have been nominated for Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards. Within this, two inspirational people from Sale Sharks have been recognised for harnessing the power of rugby to change lives.

Their stories, alongside the compelling, uplifting and emotive stories of all those shortlisted, will be shared at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards ceremony, taking place at the House of Commons, and attended by MPs on 11th July.

The Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards are a celebration of the incredible work and impact achieved by Premiership Rugby and its clubs through their community programmes which are rolled out nationally at over 200 locations. These awards demonstrate that their collective commitment to supporting communities is making an invaluable contribution to addressing some of the biggest societal challenges. Premiership Rugby aims to help tackle inequalities that exist, believing wholeheartedly that all young people, no matter their background or ability, should have equal access to sporting opportunities which help them fulfil their potential.

Adam Nesbitt, Rugby Ambassador AwardGallagher are proud sponsors of this award designed to reward a participant who has excelled in any Premiership Rugby community programme which introduces rugby to new audiences. They may have overcome physical, cultural or social barriers to become involved in the game whilst embodying the values of rugby.

Adam came to the Foundation in 2020 as part of the Sale Sharks Armed Forces programme having been referred by Walking with the Wounded following a traumatic brain injury suffered during his time in the military. A lack of confidence and self-esteem subsided the more he engaged in rugby, and he soon embedded himself as a crucial member of the Wheelchair Rugby team. His ability stood out as did his commitment with him going over and above to support others to participate too. This has not only had a positive impact on his life, it is making a huge difference to the lives of those he helps, like 93-year-old Fred who he picks up and brings with him every week, and Chris who is living with early onset Dementia who benefits from Adam’s selfless support throughout sessions. Adam has excelled in this environment and his positivity has seen him stand out as a leader among peers. The turnaround in Adam’s physical and mental health has led to him feeling ready to proactively reach out to other armed forces provisions in the area and he has secured employment in a step to financial independence.

Rei Crooks, Community Coach of the Year AwardSponsored by Premiership Rugby, this Award is designed to reward and recognise the coach who has gone above and beyond to change the lives of members of their local community through their work on Premiership Rugby programmes.

Rei is a coach who has been instrumental in increasing diversity in rugby across the Greater Manchester area. Her commendable work ethic and drive to understand how to interact with different communities led her to researching diverse cultural influences that affect involvement in rugby and it is working! Thanks to Rei, Sale Sharks’ engagement with Ethnic Diverse Communities is thriving in 2023. Not only is she committed to educating herself on how best to attract, engage and retain new players, she has passed on this knowledge to others. This has resulted in a greater understanding at Sharks of how best to support individuals and groups to experience the benefits of playing rugby. Her work includes bringing the first LGBTQ+ group to a Project Rugby session, supporting over 100 girls from an ethnically diverse community through Ramadan and Eid, and she was instrumental in bringing the Sale Sharks Down Syndrome team and Saracens mixed ability team together for an awareness day. Rei is a positive influence on new players and her fellow coaches, continually striving to help them gain a better understanding of the cultures and lives of those supported on the community programmes. This ensures coaches get the best from participants and for participants it means an environment is created where they feel safe, understood and supported. 

Community programmes such as HITZ, Project Rugby, Champions and the Defender Premiership Rugby Cup are just some of the initiatives that Premiership Rugby run nationwide to support around 250K people in communities fulfil their potential.

Wayne Morris, Community & CSR Director at Premiership Rugby says: “For many of the nominees their journey with a Premiership Rugby community programme started off against the odds, or with uncertainty around getting involved. However, every single story is one of progress. Every person shortlisted has improved either their own life or the lives of others. We’re passionate about using rugby to change lives and our community awards are a real showcase of just how much a difference our programmes and our clubs and foundation teams make. I applaud you all!”

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