PREMIERSHIP RUGBY has announced Daniel O’Connor, Louis Lott, Danyel Chapman, George Brand, Govinda Kay, Antony Morris, Anton Smith and Jordan Wickens as the eight finalists for the HITZ Best Rugby Performer Award supported by Premiership Rugby. This award will be presented at the HITZ Awards on 4 February.
HITZ Best Rugby Performer recognises a young person for their progress and development in the sport of rugby – on and off the pitch. It rewards progress in physical fitness and skill. It also looks at how the core values of rugby have supported them to overcome a range of challenges and progress on their journey back to education, training or employment.
The multi award-winning HITZ programme uses rugby to increase young people's resilience, self-reliance and confidence and gives them the skills to get back into education, apprenticeships and employment.
As a national HITZ partner, Premiership Rugby is supporting the Best Rugby Performer Award.
“When I joined Premiership Rugby, I was made aware of the HITZ programme and was inspired by not only the programme itself but everyone involved with it.” said Premiership Rugby Head of Rugby Operations Corin Palmer.
“For kids that have not necessarily had the same opportunities, or taken a different path, for whatever reason, the HITZ programme offers them a chance to really achieve something for themselves through rugby. The effort put in by each one of them and achievement gained as a consequence is truly inspirational, they are real winners.”
HITZ Awards – Best Rugby Performer shortlist
- Daniel O’Connor – Harlequins
- Louis Lott – Leicester Tigers
- Danyel Chapman – Sale Sharks
- George Brand – Worcester Warriors
- Govinda Kay – Exeter Chiefs
- Antony Morris – Sale Sharks
- Anton Smith – Bath Rugby
- Jordan Wickens – Bath Rugby
Paul Wilson the HITZ officer at Harlequins said, “Daniel joined the HITZ programme at a time when he was struggling at school and had already been suspended on multiple occasions.
“Through the scheme he joined local club Old Emanuels where he is now a regular in the second team. This has helped him both academically and socially and he is now working as a painter and decorator at the club and hoping to become a physical trainer.”
Sam Swift the HITZ officer at Leicester Tigers said, “Having been a keen sportsman growing up, Louis had almost given up on sport. Through the HITZ programme he got his fitness back up to speed and practised a range of different sports. He has gone on to be offered a senior contract with League Two football team Notts County, almost directly thanks to the programme.”
Tom Leader the HITZ officer at Sale Sharks said, “Danyel barely had any experience playing rugby until he joined the HITZ programme. He has since joined Rochdale RFC and become a member of their senior colts team. He is hoping to continue into their adult set-up while the programme has helped him transform his fitness.”
Stuart Brooks the HITZ officer at Worcester Warriors said, “George came to the HITZ programme having never played rugby before and dealing with drug issues. While he was a keen footballer, he has now become a very promising rugby player despite only recently taking up the sport. He has also cut down on his smoking and drug intake and after graduating from the programme he is looking to join a rugby club.”
Gareth Williams the HITZ officer at Exeter Chiefs said, “After leaving school early to give birth to her daughter, Govinda found it hard to spend more than 15 minutes playing sport at a time.
“Since joining the HITZ programme she has fallen in love with rugby and now spends up to seven and a half hours a week playing it. She is still on the programme and has linked up with Topsham Ladies RFC. HITZ has given her much more confidence and helped Govinda in her ambitions of getting a full-time job in the future.”
Tom Leader the HITZ officer at Sale Sharks said, “Antony was not doing any form of sport when he joined HITZ and struggled for motivation in general. A new father, he saw very little of his son, but he has been able to turn things around through the programme. He is now a regular with Sale FC colts and is looking to go into rugby coaching longer term.”
Stephen Barber the HITZ officer at Bath Rugby said, “Anton arrived on the HITZ programme as a footballer first and foremost, with little interest in rugby. A very shy individual, Anton has really come out of his shell since he became involved with the rugby side of the programme. That has helped him in all aspects of his life and he has since earned a work placement in Bath.
“Jordan was already a keen rugby player when he joined the HITZ programme and it has given him the opportunity to build on that passion. He is still on the programme and has also started doing some other volunteer work with children in a summer camp.”
All of the candidates shortlisted also act as fantastic role models for other HITZ participants in their area, who see their success and are motivated to set similar targets of their own.
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.
The HITZ Awards will take place on February 4.