Newcastle Falcons, together with Gallagher and Premiership Rugby, last week invited young members of local rugby clubs in Newcastle and the wider North East region to participate in a live and interactive virtual session, as part of a community programme aimed at keeping young people engaged with sport during lockdown, before the scheduled restart of grassroots rugby on 29 March.
England international and Newcastle Falcons flanker Mark Wilson and Adam Radwan from Newcastle Falcons hosted the latest ‘Project Rugby at Home’ session – an ongoing community initiative, featuring each of the 12 Gallagher Premiership clubs, which aims to help young rugby enthusiasts keep in touch with their local rugby clubs, as well as providing them with the opportunity to interact with local Gallagher Premiership stars.
During the session, over 80 youth players from North East grassroots rugby clubs, including Novos RFC, Gateshead RFC, North Shields RFC, Blyth RFC Youth, Ashington RFC and Wallsend RFC, were given the opportunity to ask Mark and Adam questions – covering topics including advice the players would give their younger selves, tips for young players to improve their own game, and the players’ career highlights. Notable achievements for the two players include Mark playing for England in the final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, and Adam becoming the Falcons’ top try-scorer during last season’s unbeaten campaign, which saw the team winning all 22 of their matches and being promoted back to the Gallagher Premiership.
The initiative forms part of Project Rugby, Premiership Rugby’s flagship community programme, run in partnership with England Rugby and Gallagher, which is designed to increase participation in the game and champion rugby at the grassroots level as a truly inclusive sport. The programme engages thousands of participants per year, and since launching in 2017, more than 50,000 young people have been introduced to rugby, through initiatives delivered in over 200 locations across the country.
Newcastle Falcons’ involvement in Project Rugby forms part of the programme of initiatives delivered across the North East by the Falcons Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the club. Launched in 2005, the Foundation which aims to motivate, educate and inspire community participants from a range of backgrounds, using the power of sport, with initiatives including coaching camps, and running training and development programmes in partnerships with schools in the North East, involving both aspiring players and coaches.
The latest event in the Project Rugby at Home series follows sessions hosted by Wasps, Northampton Saints, Harlequins, Sale Sharks, Bath Rugby and Bristol Bears, involving star players from each of the Gallagher Premiership sides.
Aaron Strange, Sales Director in Gallagher’s Newcastle office and club liaison for Newcastle Falcons, said: “The Project Rugby at Home series is a fantastic initiative that we’ve really been proud to support at a local level during lockdown, which has helped to boost morale among young rugby players during these challenging times by giving them a chance to quiz some of their heroes, and stay in touch with their local clubs.
“Newcastle Falcons have a strong following across the North East, and it was so positive to see so many young people participating in the session, and asking lots of well-thought out questions, highlighting just how engaged younger members of the community are with the game, and how much they’re looking forward to a return to the pitch.
“As the title partner of Premiership Rugby, encouraging more young people to get involved in the game at grassroots level is something we’re passionate about. We hope that by giving some of the North East’s young players an insight into what hard work and determination can lead to, it will fire their own rugby-playing ambitions.”
Wayne Morris, Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby, said: "The last 12 months has been an incredibly difficult time for many but Gallagher's support during this time has been unwavering. They have been incredibly supportive and flexible, allowing us to utilise our partnership in different ways to adapt our Project Rugby programme content and delivery models so that we can continue to support and engage participants during lockdown. There is a shared commitment between our two organisations to help change people’s lives, this means that together we are making a real positive impact in the wider community.
“Working together on Project Rugby at Home has only deepened our relationship, creating a great bedrock for the future of Project Rugby as the programme returns to the pitch late this year."
Mark Wilson said: “Both Adam and I have been playing for Newcastle Falcons in one form or another since we were at school, with both of us coming through the Newcastle Falcons Junior Academy, so it was a real privilege for us to host the latest Project Rugby at Home session, and answer questions from so many local young players about our journey.
“Rugby has had such a positive impact on my life from a young age. As well as the fact that rugby teaches young people important values such as trust, teamwork and respect, I know first-hand the influence the game can have on their health, wellbeing and confidence. By speaking about how the game has empowered me to get me where I am today, both on and off the pitch, I hope to help to inspire the next generation of rugby talent in the North East.”
Adam Radwan said: “As a professional rugby club, we want to be a force for good during lockdown, and these interactive sessions have been a brilliant way of enabling local young players to remain engaged with the sport over the last few months while grassroots activity has been suspended.
“It’s so important that the opportunity to play rugby is opened up to as many young people as possible – and it’s brilliant to see the amazing strides Project Rugby is making in terms of getting young members of the community involved in and impassioned by the sport, as well as positioning the game as an inclusive, welcoming and exciting sport for all to enjoy, regardless of background, ability or gender.”