SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) and Ulster Rugby’s annual competition which rewards volunteers across community rugby, has returned for its fourth year.
The Real Rugby Heroes Award (formerly the Community Champions Award) seeks out volunteers who make an invaluable contribution to the game at a grassroots level and to the lives of young people across the province.
The award scheme was initiated by SONI in 2015 as part of its sponsorship of the SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership and has grown in popularity each year with more clubs across Ulster putting forward their best volunteers for recognition. Nick Fullerton of SONI said: “Grassroots rugby plays an important part in many communities across Ulster.
“These clubs provide young people with the opportunity to enjoy the physical, social and mental health benefits of rugby and provide the first steps on the pathway to getting involved in the game.
“Local rugby clubs are about more than just teams, they enrich family and community life and provide a focal point for communities to develop, participate in and enjoy the game.
“Every season we meet dozens of inspirational volunteers who play a significant role in ensuring the smooth running of their club.
“We continue to be humbled by the work they do and the young people they support through their volunteering.”
There will once again be two categories to enter:
p Adult – aimed at volunteers who work in adult rugby including men and women’s rugby and adult disability rugby
p Youth and mini rugby – aimed at volunteers who work within youth and mini rugby including youth disability teams
Each category winner will receive £1,000 bursary for their local club and two runners up will be awarded £500.
Chris Webster, Head of Rugby Development at Ulster Rugby said: “This competition has grown in popularity since its inception four years ago and we are thrilled to have SONI’s continued support for the game at a grassroots level.
“In every club there are the fundraisers and problem solvers, the caretakers and motivators.
“The people who keep the kits washed, the balls pumped, the showers running and the grass cut.
“We believe volunteers are the very essence of local rugby clubs and it’s important that their contribution is recognised not only by the club, but the players and parents alike.
“This award is a fantastic opportunity to do that.
“We’d like to remind everyone that previous entrants can be nominated again – so get entering!”
The deadline for entries is Monday, February 4, 2019, , anyone can nominate by filling out the online application form at www.ulsterrugby.com/realrugbyheroes
For more information on SONI visit www.soni.ltd.uk or follow on twitter @soni_ltd