The Students’ RFU received a record number of over 60 nominations for this year’s University Rugby Awards, detailing the incredible work clubs have been doing in this challenging season despite the game being on pause for most of it.
The annual University Rugby Awards celebrate the outstanding contribution of clubs and individuals to the student game. This season has been all but usual, and to account for the extraordinary circumstances – and the unique challenges it has posed on the sport – the Students’ RFU have introduced special awards for this year.
The ‘Pioneers of Rugby’ Award to recognise teams’ innovative approach to tackling challenges and maximising impact across the year, and the ‘Tom Miller Award for Social Impact’ to recognise and support the legacy of the former Nottingham Trent player, who through his advocacy for the Oddballs charity raised awareness and significantly impacted both the university and wider rugby community.
We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2020-21 Awards – watch the Awards here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lWIQ6Yja38. Read on to find out more about their impressive achievements from their nominations.
Core Values Club of the Year - To celebrate a University Club who have demonstrated an outstanding and consistent commitment to the values of the game.
Durham University RFU – winner
“Despite the limitations DURFC has faced over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club has endeavoured to continue its commitment to the RFU core values in the following ways:
75 DURFC members and several coaches attempted to collectively lift 1,000,000kg in two days in support of NHS Charities Together and the Sockstar Project. The initial target was smashed, with DURFC lifting 1,517,621kg and raising £1,719. Also, members of DURFC co-ordinated the University-wide collection and donation of 335kg of food to Durham Food Bank.
Respect – DURFC uses the facilities of Durham City Rugby Football Club for some of its training and matches. DURFC members volunteered weekly at DCRFC during the autumn term to help repaint their changing rooms and outdoor facilities, as well as installing pitch-side memorial benches. The benches are in memory of two Durham City rugby players who sadly passed away while on a rugby tour in Sri Lanka, one of whom was the son of a current DURFC coach.
In light of the recent passing of Sarah Everard and the subsequent outpouring of stories from women on social media regarding their safety, DURFC has been considering how to better its own culture and help to improve the culture of Durham as a community. DURFC promoted and attended a workshop detailing women’s safety and risk and are in talks with Team Durham and the charity Beyond Equality for further interactive workshops regarding male mental wellbeing, sex & healthy relationships, and inclusivity.
Enjoyment – Due to the lack of social interaction permitted this year, DURFC adapted its plans, hosting several virtual pub quizzes open to all Durham University sports teams which also raised money for the NHS. Online social events were also held to welcome and integrate the freshers into the club, as well as weekly challenges on group chats.
Discipline - Throughout the month of November, DURFC supported Movember raising £9056, the largest amount raised by any team at Durham University. Over 50 boys contributed, through growing moustaches, raising awareness of male suicide and illness, or completing physical challenges, such as lifting 600,000kg alone or running 100km over the course of the month.
Sportsmanship – After the unfortunate passing of Tom Miller, the 1st XV captain of Nottingham Trent University RFC, DURFC started a Durham-wide initiative to support the Oddballs fundraiser his sister had set up in his memory. DURFC members completed the 250-burpee challenge started by some of Tom’s friends and invited other Durham University teams to do the same. Durham University cricket, hockey, lacrosse, football, swimming, and women’s rugby teams took part, raising £500 in Tom’s memory.”
Pioneers of Rugby 2020-21 - To recognise the unique and innovative ways in which clubs have addressed the challenges and maximised their impact across the year.
University of Leeds Women's Rugby Union - panel commendation
UEA Women's Rugby Club – winner
“In order to cope with the adverse impacts COVID has had on University Rugby, the club has adapted to incorporate online training and challenges to keep members engaged and active. The club managed to host many training sessions in the first semester, with three sessions a week and maintained similar levels of recruitment despite the fall in participation across most of the university sports clubs. Despite being unable to train as usual, the club adapted to COVID guidelines and split training up into four different coloured groups (using new numbered bibs bought through the SRFU Development Grant). These groups were kept as 'training bubbles' for 2 weeks in order to minimise the risk of having lots of different members to isolate through track and trace. Training sessions were then split into four different sections targeting varying aspects of the game in line with RFU guidelines, with ranging difficulties to engage all members with different experience levels. Hand sanitiser was provided after each section and all equipment used was wiped down. The success of the COVID procedures has meant that the club has not had a single COVID scare or had any members needing to isolate throughout this whole academic year.
The club set up a mentor/mentee system between older girls and newer members to integrate them into the sport and the club. These were adapted for specific positions and had an extra training session this year for the older girls to take charge and work with their mentees to work on newer members individual skills and help develop the older girl’s leadership and teamwork skills. As we entered the numerous lockdowns, these mentor/mentees networks were also used to check in weekly and ensure that all members knew that they had someone to speak to if they were struggling with the pressures and isolations that accompanied the lockdowns. During the first November lockdown, the club created a 'Lockdown Four Week Calendar' including collaborations with the university's Yoga Club and the Physio Society looking at injury prevention; online fitness sessions with our coach and a workout with England player Vicky Fleetwood; socials including: Disco Bingo, UEAWRUFC Has Got Talent, Netflix Parties and 'A Night on British' TV featuring famous loved game shows. The creation of this 4-week plan gave members a structure to the lockdown and kept everyone in contact and active in challenging times in innovative ways beyond the usual quiz nights.
During the post-Christmas lockdown, the club set up a 15-day fitness challenge and also the '(Stay at Home) Six Nations' Lockdown League splitting the club into the four six nation home teams (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland). The league included a daily challenge and motivational quote to help with one of the toughest lockdowns yet - these can be viewed on our Instagram highlights (@ueawrufc). The league included Joe Wicks, UV Zumba, Yoga, Bake Off Competition, Dance Cardio, Pancake competition, Random Acts of Kindness, Meditating, and a Mental Health in Sports workshop. This proved very successful and engagement from members was very high, the scheme provided the competitive edge that unfortunately could not be provided by the usual weekly fixtures.
The club introduced the role of 'Welfare Officer' this year in order to adapt to the adverse impacts COVID has had on Mental Health - this has now been introduced as a university wide recommended club committee position through its success. The club ran a weekly campaign called Wellbeing Wednesday’s, which has shared advice to help members through the stressful and busy period. Over a quarter of the club also took part in a Mental Health First Aid qualification course provided by the Welfare Officer in order to help our members approach and identify certain situations in which club members may be struggling in. To tackle loneliness during lockdown, we also hosted Six Nation watch-alongs to all students.”
University Staff Member (Unsung Hero) - To celebrate the unsung members of university staff who through their role sustained the University game despite the limitations in place during the covid-19 pandemic.
Chris McAuley - De Montfort University - panel commendation
Alex Burnett - University of Gloucester - winner
“Without Alex, not only would rugby not be able to function but our sport at university would suffer. He never sees any recognition but for every project, small or large, he is at the base of it working away. For example, he’s provided detailed outlines for each sport regarding numbers allowed, stages of play and rules allowed/not allowed. He’s also not told us what we can’t do and offer no alternatives, he tells us what we can do, allowing us to keep a positive mindset which is one of the biggest hardest parts of university this year.
His approachable nature makes him not only easy to ask questions but to also be a friend, especially through a pandemic when rugby and sport has been stopped at university level. He’s always got a positive swing on things to remind us why we’re on the roles we are as sports committee members.
Alex deserves to finally be in the spotlight so that everyone can be aware just how hard he works and how worthwhile he is to us on rugby, our other uni sports teams but our university as well.”
Coach – special recognition award - To celebrate a coach or coaching team that have benefitted their members wellbeing and welfare or has demonstrated innovative and creative approaches to the game during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Oxford Brookes University Coaching Team - winner
“The entire coaching team at Oxford Brookes University RFC has worked tirelessly since August 2020 to ensure that they continue to offer the very best rugby experience they can, to every member of OBURFC. The majority of the coaching team are student or volunteer coaches, who devote so much of their time to the club and it's members. They do this year on year without fail, however the difference this year is that they have continued to do so in the midst of a global pandemic.
When group training was permitted, they strived to be creative and offer an engaging experience, to all levels of ability, no matter the restrictions in place. Alongside the committee, they introduced a brand new intra-mural playing opportunity at the university, and week on week, managed the training of over 150 players, per session. When restrictions tightened in November, they continues with 1-2-1 work and continued to put every ounce of effort in to every session. They hosted online sessions, covering a range of topics, but with a particular focus on both the physical and mental wellbeing of every single member.
In what has been a year where many might have turned their backs on the sport, they were able to offer an experience and drew new members in. This year we have seen our largest ever intake, and our strongest retention figures. Every session they delivered had exactly the right feeling and, the students were loving every second they were on the pitch.
Away from the playing side, all coaches, but particularly our Head of Rugby, Joe Winpenny, and Forwards Coach, Tom Whelan, offer a level of emotional, professional and personal support that I truly believe will struggle to be matched in a university environment. In what is my 4th and final year with the club, I have had this coaching team play a massive part in both my on and off-field development, and I would not have been capable of achieving the things I have without them. I know that I speak for so, so many other members of OBURFC when I say that.
The greatest contribution to cultural change, by the coaching team, was the introduction of the intra-mural competition in October 2020. This competition provided competitive return to rugby fixtures, for every single player of any ability. I am certain that the introduction of this competition has played a significant role in the recruitment and retention of new players we have experienced this season. The coaching team call on their experience to adapt their delivery to suit the playing group they have, and it creates an environment that everyone feels comfortable to be a part of, and pushed each and every player to challenge themselves to grow.”
Student Leadership - To celebrate a University student or committee who made an outstanding contribution to the game through their commitment and endeavours in leading through rugby in their university.
Birmingham City University - Women’s Rugby Club Committee - panel commendation
Committee of Women's Rugby Union at the University of Nottingham - winner (committee)
Georgia Briggs, President of the University of York Women's Rugby Club - winner (individual)
“Georgia came to the helm of the University of York Women's Rugby Club (UYWRFC) in May of 2020. We didn't know at all what to expect, but, a year on, there is no one else who could have done better work for this club over the pandemic. Georgia began her term as President making application upon application to confirm our summer training times, make grant applications, applying for funding support, and maintaining engagement with club members and our community over lockdown. Georgia reached out to the York community and began to secure sponsorship agreements for our club with local businesses and organisations. Throughout the summer, Georgia worked tirelessly building relationships with business-owners and community leaders, eventually securing several sponsors and maintaining 2019/20 sponsorship funds, despite the closure of several businesses.
UYWRUFC pride itselves on engaging with the community and building lasting links - Georgia embodies this entirely, working with sponsors from previous seasons and reengaging them in the club. Watching UYWRUFC alumni support current club members during such a difficult time and seeing local business-owners stand up in support of women's sport in a time where funding is being cut and broadcasting rights are diminishing, is testament to Georgia's hard work. After grant applications and an application to a Student Support Fund, Georgia and the executive team secured more funding for the club than in any previous season - despite huge cutbacks in funding from our Sport Union.
As well as this tangible, financial work, Georgia stepped up as we returned to training. Having to change the format of our Fresher's Fairs to become virtual and limit the number of freshers who could attend our initial taster sessions, Georgia led the club through these limitations and made UYWRUFC every bit as welcoming and inclusive as possible. We retained high numbers of freshers and, even when training had to be cancelled later in the term, engagement with the club remained impressive. Georgia also overhauled the UYWRUFC membership system, reducing the previously high membership costs by splitting the payment in two, to be paid at the beginning of each term. Not only was this more of an incentive for new members and a fairer process during a disrupted training schedule, it made the club more accessible to lower-income and disadvantaged students.
Coming from a low-income background herself, Georgia has worked tirelessly in ensure UYWRUFC is as inclusive and welcoming as possible. From lowering membership costs, to curating personal membership payment plans to students who may need it, Georgia has been at the heart of all this work. Our work with IDAS - a domestic abuse awareness charity based in York - is also testament to Georgia's work. Despite several lockdowns and huge disruption to our season which meant we had no fixtures or training throughout all of Term 2, Georgia maintained a relationship with this charity, and spearheaded our International Women's Week charity campaign. UYWRUFC joined with York Student Union's Women and Non-Binary Network, and our members exercised for 24 hours straight. Our efforts, in aid of IDAS and Women Aid, raised over £800 - Georgia exercising in 3 of the slots herself.
As well as all of this crucial work for the club, Georgia is an indispensable part of our team. Playing at fullback, it is easy to see where her leadership skills overlap onto the pitch. She always gives 100% in training, no matter how bad her day was. She is an inspiration to the freshers coming through (though she won't admit it) and has a natural talent and passion for the game, which is clear to see at training and on match days.
Georgia has done an incredible amount of inclusion and diversity work for our club. She not only recognises the importance of diversity in all settings but works tirelessly to actively improve and engage with these issues. Georgia led our charity campaign in aid of IDAS and Women's Aid who have been overrun during the pandemic. UYWRUFC recognises the importance of Women's shelters and domestic abuse awareness, and Georgia's work has meant we have been able to raise huge sums of money to go towards helping these charities continue to crucial work they are doing.
Georgia has also led an effort to increase BAME diversity in our club. Playing a very white-and-male-dominated sport in a very white university has spurred the UYWRUFC executive committee to help organise and sit on a student-led panel working to diversify sport for BAME athletes at York. Releasing a statement UYWRUFC helped curate, Georgia was and continues to be actively involved in creating tangible pathways for BAME athletes within the York Sport Union, and in the university community as a whole.
Georgia further helped to make UWRUFC as accessible as possible, lowering membership costs and challenging previously "essential" costs involved in joining the club. Lowering and splitting membership costs across two terms meant the financial cost of joining the club was not a barrier to those wanting to participate. Georgia also produced a "Devs Membership" option for UYWRUFC members, which offers a half-price membership cost for Development Players who don't necessarily want to compete in fixtures. Introducing this Devs option meant there was no longer a huge financial or hourly commitment to joining our club - those who wanted to engage with rugby and development at their own rate are now completely free to. This hugely increased engagement with the club and supported freshers who hadn't played rugby before coming to university - which is often the case for women's rugby - and many of our Devs players eventually upgraded to a full membership!
Georgia's commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident in the work she has done for UYWRUFC, making our club more accessible, diverse and inclusive. Georgia is active and passionate in her work, and the club will continue to benefit long after she has graduated.
The club would simply not be where it was today without Georgia. She has been the best leader we could have asked for and this award would help recognise her talent, and how appreciative the club is and I am to have worked and played alongside her.”
Committee of Women's Rugby Union at the University of Nottingham - winner (committee)
“As a new committee in summer 2020, we anticipated some of the challenges that this season might bring. Restrictions on in-person activities encouraged our committee to find innovative ways to engage new members. We re-launched our social media platform with several aims, including communicating to current and prospective students that we are a dynamic sports club, welcoming people of all rugby abilities. Our “Meet the Committee and Coaches” series is friendly rather than formal, and our “Club Member of the Month” series showcases the hard work of our players, ensuring that individual efforts do not go unnoticed. We were fortunate enough to take part in a COVID-secure sports fair in September, however, we focused our attention online and answered dozens of questions from prospective members about rugby and our club across our social medias. We collated a dedicated Q&A section where these can be viewed remotely at any time. Moreover, throughout the year we hosted virtual “Meet the Club” sessions which have been either drop-in sessions or webinars where we share further insights about women’s rugby. We recruited a handful of new members this way and plan to continue utilising our online platform for recruitment. These sessions have been important to show that women’s rugby has so much to offer and, as a result of our efforts, we have secured our highest number of members ever and are looking towards introducing a third BUCS team.
With in-person training not being possible for a large proportion of the year, we were faced with an enormous challenge: coaching dozens of new members who had not played rugby before, and maintaining the knowledge and fitness of experienced players, all remotely. Therefore, in summer 2020, we launched a remote training programme in preparation for preseason and beyond. This included weekly live HIIT sessions and an ongoing strength & conditioning programme. Throughout the year, new members have led strength and conditioning challenges which has not only prepared the club for in-person training, but also exemplifies that teamwork is central to our club. We run regular online workshops and skills sessions for different groups, such as forwards and backs, which have improved new and existing players’ knowledge of and appreciation for the game. We run regular Q&As and share clips from games on our Team Page to spark discussions and invite anyone to ask questions to the captains and coaches. As in-person training returns, we can proudly say that every member of our club has worked hard, achieved a strong level of fitness, and have improved their rugby knowledge. In a recent survey completed by members, 87% strongly agree or agree that we have delivered a high-quality remote training programme this year. Although this is a fantastic proportion of the club, we are always striving to achieve more, which leads onto the final point.
This year sports club have had to make unprecedented decisions. Our committee has strived to maintain regular and transparent communication with club members and ensured that we are as approachable as possible. In summer 2020, we launched a Feedback Survey where members can give constructive criticism and suggestions to do with any aspect of the club. The survey is live all year-round and can be completed anonymously. The committee discuss the survey in our regular meetings and have acted on 100% of feedback this year to ensure that we are accountable and responsive to our members. Examples include that some members wanted to focus more on agility in remote training, and others suggested how they felt partial refunds because of lockdown should be dealt with. We are proud that in a challenging year, 93% of members strongly agree or agree that they feel supported by our committee and that we lead the club well. Our committee have taken concrete steps to build the presence of women’s rugby at UoN and have embodied a strong, inclusive ethos at every point along the way.
At the heart of our club is a focus on equality, diversity, and inclusion. Despite in-person activities being limited this year, our committee have worked hard to ensure we are welcoming and inclusive of everybody. We have a successful family system whereby new members are assigned to returning members so that everyone has ‘siblings’, ‘parent(s)’, and ‘cousins’ in the club. These support networks have social and welfare purposes and have encouraged integration across the club in a remote environment. Our family system is often used for online socials, such as family quiz nights and treasure hunts. Moreover, we approach welfare as intrinsically linked to equality, diversity, and inclusion. Our Welfare Secretary continues to add information to a brilliant welfare resource that they created in summer 2020. A condensed infographic on the Team Page features a scannable QR code that directs members to a comprehensive welfare document that includes a range of resources. We also run regular activities including welfare walks and virtual coffee mornings. We proposed changes to our constitution which were voted in by the club, including making all language gender neutral and the Welfare Secretary being officially responsible for overseeing Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. 92% of our members strongly agree or agree that UoNWRFC has an actively inclusive environment, which we hope to continue to improve on.
While we are incredibly proud of the work we do within our club, we also have a social responsibility to use our platform to support diversity and inclusion within the wider rugby community. We have been active in supporting social issues we feel strongly about as a club, including the LGBTQ+ community and the Black Lives Matter movement. Our social medias feature a range of educational resources and support for campaigns such as Rainbow Laces, which champions LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport. It has been a cornerstone of our online platform this year that we highlight that all people are welcome in rugby and our club. Recurring slogans we use such as #JOINTHEFAM encapsulate our passion for inclusion in rugby. Moreover, our committee’s pronouns feature in our “Meet the Committee and Coaches” series as we feel that it is important to normalise the use of pronouns in introductory contexts and to show that our rugby club welcomes everyone, whoever they are. Also, our posts include image descriptions to aid people who use screen readers. Please feel free to have a look at our social medias (@uonwrfc) to see all of this for yourselves. On another note, something that perhaps went unnoticed by many rugby clubs, was the World Rugby proposal to ban transgender athletes from competing. When this was announced, we opened a discussion with the Students Union LGBTQ+ Officer to enhance our understanding of a nuanced issue.
Although we would have liked to continue more in-person voluntary work, such as the TAG in schools programme whereby our members go into local primary schools and get students involved in tag rugby, we had to adjust this year. Coming into spring 2021, we reached out to Trent University’s women’s rugby team to organise a Varsity-style fundraiser in aid of two local organisations: Tracy’s Street Kitchen and Nottingham Women’s Centre. We battled it out to travel the furthest distance on foot in two weeks and secured overwhelming engagement from both clubs. We are thrilled that we were able to raise awareness of the important work both organisations do, raise more than £1,100, and boost the profile of both rugby clubs.
At UoN women’s rugby, we strive to not only grow our sport, but to be an example of what a diverse and inclusive rugby club should look like. Everything we do is motivated and shaped by the dedication we have to our members, our wider community, and the game.”
Student Volunteer of the year (unsung Hero) - To celebrate the unsung hero student volunteers who have made a significant contribution to the game through their volunteering.
Ben Parker, Club President, Oxford Brookes University RFC - winner
“Ben in an extremely challenging year has led the club with commitment, passion and determination in his role as Men's President. Ben has not only gone above and beyond the call of duty with regards the duties specifically attributed to his role but has also was involved in all aspects of the club, from coaching sessions to assisting the sponsorship officer. Ben has been driving force behind a number of projects that have been meaning to launch and carry out but have always struggled to find the time including the launch or an alumni engagement project and a 360 review of our governance and constitution, weighty topics for a student athlete. Ben really does embody what it takes to be a young rugby leader, he has the respect of his peers, the rugby department and the wider sports staff and community at Brookes. As Head of Rugby is support and friendship has been invaluable this year particularly when the club has faced challenges. Ben has not only led the club exceptionally well, but he is also an exceptional young person.
The club’s values are Respect, Honesty and Be A Good Person, Ben talks and walks these. They are at the heart of everything he does either on the pitch or away from it. Ben has been instrumental in the work of amalgamating the Men's and Women's sections together in order to create a one club culture, we still have a way to go but Ben has helped laid some great foundations.”
Tom Miller Award for Social Impact - To recognise a club or student who has demonstrated considerable impact through charitable and awareness raising endeavours.
Nathaniel Bevan-Brown (Secretary) - De Montfort University – panel commendation
James Parker – NTU – winner
“In honour of our Tom Miller a challenge was set in February to #BEMORETOM. The challenge was to run/walk/cycle at least 12 miles per week to honour Tommy’s number 12 shirt that he so often wore on the pitch.
Going above and beyond, James Parker ran 12km PER DAY, every day, with 12kg on his back for the entire month of February!! He then ran 10 miles with 17kg on his back to raise an extra £900 as part of a separate challenge. A lot of amazing individuals from our University & wider community contributed to this amazing challenge with a special shout-out to a group of girls from our University’s Hockey Club who ran the 12 miles per week & competed a walking Marathon around Nottingham in 7 hours! In addition, our University Women’s Hockey club got together to put on a horse racing night of which all funds went to the same charity. The group effort was outstanding, but James went above and beyond this challenge, he fought blood sweat and tears (literally) every day in wind, rain, snow, sleet... it was just an incredible individual effort and an inspiration to Toms family, friends, and wider generation.
All this was to raise money for the Adult Intensive Care Unit at Queens Medical centre in Nottingham ICU, who looked after Tom and all the Miller Family. Over £15k was raised in total which will hopefully help to improve the comfort of the family room with the addition of new sofas, a fridge and likely much more!
In addition, James contributed to the £50+k raised for the OddBalls charity, he made such a strong effort for this message and campaign to be sent round to all the England boys & the wider rugby community (people Tom looked up to). Tom would be so humble to know the lengths his friends would go to continue his legacy.
James was one of Tom’s best friends. James and Tom both played Rugby at Nottingham Trent University and at the Royal Hospital School. He watched him fight tirelessly through multiple injuries, Tom was one of the most inspiring individuals Parker was friends with and Parker and proved he is one also to Miller. He thoroughly deserves this award. But I am sure whoever it is granted to, has also done incredible work for charity, one of Tom’s passions. I am so proud England Rugby have recognised Tom for the man he was, and for the work he did for OddBalls charity.”
Vaughan Parry Williams Award for outstanding contribution to student rugby - To recognise someone who has changed the game through their outstanding contribution to university rugby.
Paul Baty, Durham University RFC and England Students - winner
“Paul is committed to student rugby and has been involved in student rugby for many years in different capacities. He has contributed to the leadership, management development of Durham University RFC, as well as Team Manager for England Students rugby. Paul role models the core values of rugby daily and has been instrumental in the development of players and coaches across the student game. The relationships he has built over the years with players, coaches, former players and coaches, parents, managers, Directors of Rugby and with the RFU and SRFU have been exemplary. Paul is a huge asset to the student game and has had an impact on XV's, sevens, administration, committee work as well as wider development initiatives over the years. I unreservedly nominate Paul as I have worked with him for a number of years and appreciate the support, dedication and sense of humour that he continually brings.
Paul Baty has coached voluntarily at DURFC for several years, as well as being heavily involved at Durham City Rugby Football Club and with England Students. Further to his role as rugby coach, this year he has gone above and beyond to ensure the welfare of players during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul led the implementation of a 'buddy system' for older DURFC members and the new intake of freshers. The system facilitated conversations between these players regarding their general wellbeing, how they were finding life at university and if they were encountering any problems. Any potential issues were highlighted to senior players and coaching staff, allowing for support to be given.
This system ran alongside an academic mentor initiative, which gave freshers and second years an accessible contact who they could easily reach out to with any questions regarding their course. Several of our players have made use of this initiative throughout the year.
Similar to the player buddy system, each of our coaches was also assigned a number of players to get in contact with at various points throughout the year to discuss their experience of the rugby club, university, and whether DURFC could better support them in any way. Paul had the largest group of players and was in regular contact with this group to ensure their welfare over the course of the year.
Paul's contributions this year have helped to support our players despite the significant lack of rugby training or social interaction. His commitment to the initiatives mentioned above, and unwavering voluntary support for all DURFC's plans and charity fundraising schemes have been an incredible help and have positively influenced a huge number of people within DURFC and outside of it.
I was fortunate to work with Paul as manager of England Students when I was England Students Head Coach. What always comes to mind is Paul’s passion, dedication, and drive to help Student Rugby – both for the players but also the volunteer management, coaching and medical staff. He has worked relentlessly for the England Students programme to efficiently organize, problem solve and more importantly help create a memorable experience for all involved. And with a smile on his face. Paul is a top bloke who has added significant value not only to Durham University Rugby but England Students 15s and 7s.
Panel Recognition for Diversity and Inclusion
University of Leeds Women's Rugby Union
UEA Women's Rugby
Nathaniel Bevan-Brown (Secretary) DMU
Georgia Briggs, President of the University of York Women's Rugby Club
Ben Parker, Club President, Oxford Brookes University RFC
George Munro, President, Birmingham City University Men’s Rugby