Sale Sharks wing Marland Yarde has today been named the Gallagher Community Player of the Season award for 2020-21. The 29-year-old was selected as the winner by a judging panel, following his work with homeless charity Centrepoint.
He was joined on the prestigious shortlist by Gloucester Rugby’s Ollie Thorley, Harlequins’ Paul Lasike and Wasps’ Jimmy Gopperth. Yarde has also had a wonderful season on the pitch, with his fine form helping Sale to a top-four finish. However, it is for his work with Manchester’s homeless community that he has been recognised.
Yarde contacted the charity independently to use his profile to make a real difference to the city.
During the season he led a mission, rallying his Sharks teammates and club staff, to donate coats, scarves, hats and other warm clothes (as well as additional essential items) for a ‘coat drop’ to support those most in need during the winter period.
Yarde played a leading role in sorting out all these items after training over several days. He then hand-delivered the haul of over 1000 items on one of his days off. He also explored crowdfunding options and, from this, the club launched a virtual collection bucket.
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.
“Put simply, all of Sale Sharks’ interaction with and support of homeless charity Centrepoint in Greater Manchester is now being instigated by, driven by and led by Marland.
“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.”