This event was created to recognise the fantastic work that all rugby volunteers do for the betterment of our sport, and for volunteers to get the opportunity to chat with players and staff while enjoying some light refreshments.
This year, Bryn Cunningham, Dan McFarland and Matty Rea attended along with Ulster Women players Ella Durkan and Pieta McAlister, all of whom were available for photos and chatted to our volunteers.
Clubs and schools were asked to nominate their volunteers to attend the event and we were delighted to receive over 270 nominations from 33 clubs and 13 schools across the province.
There were nominations for a huge array of volunteer roles including those who coach, referee, look after kit, organise transport, carry out administration and make tea and sandwiches after the game for players and visitors.
Billy Dickson and Ian Wallace received their certificates in recognition of the volunteering work they do at Ards Rugby; both were instrumental in Ards Rugby recently achieving its Clubmark status.
All nominated volunteers who attended the event were presented with Gold Certificates (in recognition of volunteering in rugby) and an Ulster match ticket from Stephen Elliott, President of the IRFU (Ulster Branch), as a thank you for their volunteering services to rugby.
Commenting on the night, Mr Elliott said, “Without you and the other volunteers who are not here this evening, rugby in Ulster could not survive.”
Nick Fullerton, Director at SONI (Ltd), also spoke of the importance of volunteering and its impact on clubs and communities.
He also spoke about the new look ‘Real Rugby Heroes’ Award – previously the ‘Community Champions Award’ – and encouraged everyone to get their nominations in for volunteers from mini, youth rugby and adult rugby.
Each winning volunteer will receive £1,000 for their club. Two runners up will also receive a £500 bursary and all four finalists will attend the gala Ulster Rugby Awards dinner at the end of the season, where the winners will be announced.
Ards Rugby stalwarts Ian Wallace and Billy Dickson were recognised by Ulster Rugby for their sterling work as volunteers they've done for The guy talking to Billy and I at the Volunteer Recognition Evening hosted by Ulster Rugby is former pupil of Regent House, Terry Finlay, who played at Ards in the 1970’s and helped us gain our Senior League status in 1978. Terry moved to Enniskillen from where he has contributed a lot to the rugby at the then Portora Royal School, now Enniskillen Royal Academy.
Updated 21:37 - 27 Jan 2019 by STEPHEN NUTT