Jeremy Bristoe has undoubtedly established a legacy at Witney Wolves and he’s now determined to spread that nationwide.
Bristoe, who is head coach of the SEN (Special Educational Needs) Tag Rugby team at Witney, was recognised for his efforts at the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community Awards in Westminster on Wednesday night.
He received the Community Champion Award – in partnership with Land Rover – which rewards a person who uses rugby to deliver significant social change or support in their community.
After starting with just one player when it was created back in 2008, the team now has over 25 members – catering for boys and girls with a range of disabilities including Cerebral palsy, Autism, Down’s Syndrome and Global Developmental Delay.
London Welsh nominated Bristoe for the award and while he was honoured to be recognised, he has even higher hopes for the programme.
“It feels amazing – I’m overwhelmed by the whole thing but it has given us a great platform to push what we think is a great cause,” said Bristoe, who was presented the award but England legend Jason Robinson and Mark Pawsey MP for Rugby and Bulkington.
“It has given us a high profile and I’m speechless. We didn’t expect to win – we just came for the day and to get the award is my dream.
“My dream now is to have this sort of team-building endorsed throughout all the Premiership regions.
“It would be fantastic to have every Premiership club doing what we’ve done as a role model – that would be my dream and let’s hope it happens quickly.”
Bristoe makes a tangible difference in numerous youngsters’ lives and he is adamant that rugby is the perfect tool for doing that.
“It’s unbelievable to see the difference we are making in these kids’ lives – I don’t know where we get the skill to do it,” he added.
“It’s understanding that these kids get a bit mollycoddled, a bit cotton-wooled and people ask what’s the difference at Witney?
“The difference is that when they go over that white line, they’re pushed. And rugby is a great environment to do that it because there’s so much respect.
“It’s life-changing – we’ve seen kids who wouldn’t touch anything wet or wouldn’t touch anything made out of plastic and now they’re at an international festival scoring tries. That’s what it’s all about.”