Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch acclaims inspirational quartet at Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards.
Four inspiring individuals were honoured at the glittering Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards as they claimed the top prizes on offer.
Premiership Rugby HITZ participant at London Irish Ben Nutt, Sale Sharks’ community volunteer Paula Bradbury, Bath Rugby Foundation’s Todd Burge and Bristol Rugby Spectrum Project manager Kris Tavender were the headline acts on a star-studded afternoon at the House of Commons.
Former England star and current Aviva Community Player of the Year Chris Pennell, as well as MP’s Julie Elliott and Mark Pawsey, were on hand to help present the awards, with the winners chosen by a specially-selected panel.
Every year hundreds of people up and down the country give their time to help run and participate in Premiership Rugby initiatives such as Aviva Tackling Numbers, HITZ, On The Front Foot, Rugby 4 All, Something To Chew On, Move Like A Pro and Urban Rugby Squad.
And the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards seeks to recognise the stand-out achievers within those schemes, with Tracey Crouch MP, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, inspired by those shortlisted for the awards.
She said: “Sport has an amazing power to bring communities together, whether that’s through a game of rugby in the local park or thousands of fans watching on match day.
“These awards showcase the remarkable community champions who keep sport at the heart of society and help more people get active and take part. I would like to congratulate all the winners and everyone who made the shortlist.”
Ben collected the BreakThru Achiever of the Year Award, supported by Premiership Rugby, thanks to his efforts to overcome his own personal challenges on the London Irish HITZ programme.
Stephen Thomas at Gloucester Rugby and Sale Sharks’ Ian Rudge were also shortlisted, but Ben was chosen for the award which recognises participants who have excelled in any education, health or social inclusion programme.
Bath Rugby Foundation’s Todd claimed the PLAY Achiever of the Year gong, supported by Sporting Equals, after embodying the spirit of the PLAY campaign to his life through playing rugby.
Leo Gradwell-Spencer from Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors’ Emma Henighan were the other shortlisted candidates, but edged them out thanks to his efforts with the Urban Rugby Squad programme.
“I think Todd genuinely deserved to win this award for how much he has overcome in his life,” said Comic Relief account manager Lisa Bedding, who was one of seven judges for the awards.
“Since joining the Urban Rugby Squad in Bath he has completely transformed into a different person who is a role model for what people can achieve.
“It gave him such a confidence boost to play rugby and raised his self-esteem, it is a great story.”
Sale Sharks’ Paula was crowned the Community Volunteer of the Year, supported by BT, thanks to her outstanding contribution to helping establish the women’s game in greater Manchester.
She was inspired to get involved after her daughter wanted to take up rugby but had no means of doing so, and she was chosen ahead of John Trigg at Saracens and Bath Rugby’s husband-and-wife duo Janet and John Miles.
And the afternoon was rounded out as Kris scooped the Community Coach of the Year Award, supported by the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group, thanks to his efforts managing the Bristol Rugby Community Foundation Spectrum Project.
Bath Rugby Foundation outreach officer Joe Aygul and Sale Sharks Community Trust inclusion officer Vicky Irwin were also shortlisted, but Kris was commended for helping to bring sport to almost 600 people with a variety of disabilities.
“Kris has worked extremely hard to deliver the Spectrum Project and helped young people with a wide variety of needs, even quitting his own full-time job to help deliver a host of schemes,” said Heather Taylor from Sport England, who helped judge the award.
“He is an incredibly dedicated and hard-working individual who has helped bring joy to so many people in the area. He regularly commits more than 50 hours every week.”
Julie Elliott MP, the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Rugby Union, said: “On behalf of the Group, I applaud all of those coaches, volunteers and participants who have been recognised for their huge contributions towards Premiership Rugby’s community programmes.”