Three young people have been shortlisted for the HITZ Best Rugby Performer award supported by Premiership Rugby – Ryan Hancock (Northampton Saints), Tom Rowthorne (Leicester Tigers) and Jason Suttle (Bath Rugby). The winner will be announced at the HITZ Awards on 3 December.
The multi award-winning HITZ programme, delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby, aims to tackle the greatest challenges facing adolescents today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment.
Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Natasha ‘Mo’ Hunt feels it was a privilege to judge the HITZ Best Rugby Performer award. Scrum-half Hunt, who helped England Women defeat Canada in this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup Final, first heard about the project through her teammate Kay Wilson, whose brother Paul is the HITZ officer at Harlequins.
"I had an awareness of the programme because my England roommate Kay Wilson told me about all the good things that her brother Paul was doing with HITZ at Harlequins," says Hunt.
"I leapt at the chance to get involved after a coffee with Paul and three of his HITZ students. It was amazing to hear their stories. I’m a PE teacher so I work with young people and HITZ is an inspirational and fantastic programme.
"Rugby teaches the young people all about teamwork and respect but also more practical things like time-keeping and being able to socialise and interact with each other.
"All the shortlisted candidates for this award have unbelievable stories and have come so far so it’s been really tough to pick a winner."
The Rugby Performance award rewards an individual who has developed and progressed in their rugby performance, physical activity levels and capabilities as a result of participating in the HITZ programme. This is not necessarily those that have progressed the furthest in terms of level of play, but those that have improved the most, changed their attitude toward activity and improved their health as a result.
HITZ Awards – Best Rugby Performer Nominees
- Ryan Hancock, Northampton Saints
- Tom Rowthorne, Leicester Tigers
- Jason Suttle, Bath Rugby
Before joining the HITZ programme, Leicester Tigers nominee Tom Rowthorne found himself in a rut both physically and academically but the routine of the HITZ sessions led to his performances both on the field and in the classroom improving rapidly.
Tom achieved three sporting qualifications by the end of the course, securing a full-time apprenticeship and was also selected as captain of Leicester Forest East RFC Colts.
Northampton Saints nominee Ryan Hancock also struggled both with his own and his family’s health problems but saw his fitness and confidence rise as he went through the programme.
On completing his time with HITZ, Ryan secured a full-time job and is now playing senior rugby as a prop at Northampton Casuals where he is expected to break into the first team soon.
A lack of a healthy routine was also preventing Bath Rugby nominee Jason Suttle from participating in sport until the HITZ programme gave him a newfound love of the gym and rugby in particular.
After seeing his fitness levels drastically improve over the course of attending the HITZ programme, Jason decided to join a local rugby club and now plays two nights a week while also holding a part-time job with Bath Rugby on match days.
These are just a few of the stories from the 3,000 young people who the Premiership Rugby clubs work with through HITZ every year.
Hunt says that it is great to see such a wide-ranging programme also committed to improving the take up of sport among young women.
"To have a programme of this nature ensuring the inclusion of females is massive and will hopefully help later on in life," Hunt adds.
"It’s definitely part of the aims of HITZ to grow the women’s game and if stars can come out of a programme of this kind it’s really amazing."
The award winning HITZ programme tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment. Delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon, HITZ uses rugby to increase young people's resilience, self-reliance and confidence. It gives them the skills to get back into education, vocational training, apprenticeships and employment. Please visit hitzrugby.com to find out more.