As a child, Tiara often struggled to engage with physical activity and had entered her teenage years by the time she picked up a rugby ball for the first time as a year nine pupil at Bristol Brunel Academy. Tiara and around a dozen other children took part in a Project Rugby session led by Bristol Bears Community Foundation head coach Rich Hynes, and her life changed forever.
Premiership Rugby’s Project Rugby programme is delivered in conjunction with partners Gallagher, title partner of Premiership Rugby, and the RFU and is designed to introduce as many people as possible to the benefits of rugby. Having engaged over 75,000 young people since the programme started, Project Rugby aims to encourage more players from ethnically diverse or low socio economic backgrounds, and those with disabilities to trial rugby, via sessions delivered at more than 200 locations across England which are welcoming and easily accessible to participants.
Despite having little experience or knowledge of the game, Project Rugby lit a fire under Tiara and four years on, the back-row forward is well and truly reaping the rewards.
“Rugby has changed my life a lot. It’s changed my friendship groups, changed literally everything,” Tiara said
“My fitness is so much better and I feel like my attitude to life in general has changed a lot due to rugby. I was a very angry child and now I’ve calmed down. Being in the rugby community has brought out a different character in me. It has built my confidence and made me such a happy person. I don’t know what I would do without it.
Now 17, Tiara has been selected for the final England squad for the U18 Women’s Six Nations, having previously trained as part of the England U18 pathway programme. She credits Project Rugby and the Bears Community Foundation for her success and maintains a close relationship with coach Hynes, who kickstarted her rugby journey.
“I had a training session with Rich, who just taught me a couple of things about rugby and I really enjoyed it,” she said. “He introduced me a local club, North Bristol RFC, and I just progressed from there.
Since joining North Bristol RFC and getting more involved with Bears, Brown has progressed rapidly and the last 12 months have brought about two huge breakthroughs. As well as captaining her club side, she place within the Bristol Bears Centre of Excellence started her on the England pathway.
Tiara added: “It has gone very well recently. Coming into the England setup, I am enjoying it a lot and learning lots of new things about the sport.”
“It means a lot to me that I got into that England pathway. It showed me that there is a whole new level of rugby.
“For the future, I want to hopefully go professional and play for England and for Bristol Bears. That is what I’m aiming for.”
Bristol Bears Community Foundation head coach Rich Hynes could not be more thrilled with Brown’s rapid ascent.
“Recently, the levels of pressure and expectation have gone up from what she’s been used to at club rugby and she’s really embraced that,” he said.
“I’m really proud of the way she’s focused on her rugby, dedicated herself to becoming a better rugby player and also really embraced all the core values of the sport. We believe at Bristol Bears that better people make better rugby players and she’s certainly a very good rugby player.”
Charles Scott, Chief Financial Officer at partner Gallagher, and a Project Rugby volunteer said: “It is great to hear how being involved in Project Rugby has made a big difference to Tiara’s outlook on life. To think that just in four years she has progressed from a total rugby novice to a potential England player shows brilliant dedication from her, and is a great example of how getting involved in a sport like rugby really can change a young person’s life. We are delighted to be involved in this hugely worthwhile initiative and we hope to help to play a role in many more stories like Tiara’s.
To find out more about Project Rugby and to find a session near you, visit www.projectrugby.co.uk