Sale Sharks’ Paula Bradbury couldn’t hide her delight as she was crowned Community Volunteer of the Year at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards, thanks to her outstanding contribution to helping establish the women’s game.
The Community Volunteer of the Year Award, supported by BT, seeks to recognise those who have given the most back to their communities, with hundreds of people up and down the country giving their time to support Premiership Rugby initiatives.
Paula picked up the gong at the House of Commons on Tuesday ahead of John Trigg at Saracens and Bath Rugby’s husband-and-wife duo Janet and John Miles after going above and beyond to back women’s rugby, starting a women’s and girls’ section at Winnington Park RFC back in 2013 and watching it grow year-on-year.
Starting with an under-13s team, the club now has an under-18s side, meaning that they cater for all ages, while Paula now also leads the Cheshire women and girls, and is also the girls Cheshire CB Programme Manager.
And while Paula’s inspiration to get involved came from her children, she insists there is still plenty to do to make sure all girls get the chance to play rugby – and she is relishing the thought of continuing her work.
“It was a bit surreal to collect the award as I am sure they are plenty of other volunteers who deserve it too, so it is quite an honour actually,” said Paula, who saw fellow Sale Sharks nominees Leo Gladwell-Spencer, Ian Rudge and Vicky Irwin finish as runners-up for their respective categories.
— SaleSharks Community (@SharksCommunity) July 4, 2017
“It means an awful lot because it promotes girls and women’s rugby, so if it means that it gets it out there to a wider audience and gets girls and women to be involved, then it has achieved what I set out to do.
“Rugby is everything really. Both my children play and they enjoy both the social side of it and it is like having a second family. There is a place for everyone on a rugby pitch and that is what I firmly believe and what I try to promote.”
Every year, hundreds of people up and down the country give their time to help run Premiership Rugby initiatives such as – but not limited to – Aviva Tackling Numbers, HITZ, On The Front Foot, Rugby 4 All, Something To Chew On, Move Like A Pro, and Urban Rugby Squad.
From going the extra mile to help youngsters in the local area to helping more girls and women get into the game, these groundbreaking schemes all seek to help the community reach new heights both on and off the rugby pitch.
And BT Charity and Community Director Suzy Christopher, who was on the judging panel, believes the success of the women’s game in the Sale area would have been impossible without Paula.
She said: “The story behind her setting up a girls team was thoroughly inspiring; her daughter wanted to play but Paula found out there was nothing in the area offering girls rugby.
“So in 2013, Paula helped set up a women and girls section at Winnington Park with just four girls, including her daughter.
The @premrugby Parliamentary Community Awards roll on
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) July 4, 2017
“After giving up so much of her spare time, they are about to launch an under-18s team, which is remarkable.
“Without Paula, women’s rugby in the area would not have developed as it has. She is a remarkable woman and a worthy winner of the Volunteer Award.
“To dedicate so much of their time to helping people and their communities just goes to show what kind of people these volunteers they are.
“Each of the nominees are a testament to rugby and to their areas. The time they dedicate to various projects is absolutely priceless.”
Paul Farrelly, MP for Newcastle-Under-Lyme, added: “The Premiership Rugby programmes would not be what they are without the selfless contribution from volunteers like Paula.
“Paula has made a number of sacrifices at Sale Sharks to ensure her local club at Winnington Park is able to run a women’s section and enabling it to flourish. That is what volunteering is all about – well done Paula!”
To read more about Premiership Rugby’s community programmes, please visit premiershiprugby.com/community or join the conversation #RugbyChangingLives