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Worcester Warrior Chris Pennell pays tribute to community heroes

Chris Pennell paid tribute to Worcester Warriors’ grassroots spirit as he got his hands on his Aviva Community Player of the Season award.

The 30-year-old full-back was originally honoured at May’s end-of-season awards night but picked up his gong alongside a host of community heroes at Premiership Rugby’s Parliamentary Community Awards on Tuesday 4 July.

Pennell was awarded for his selfless work with the Warriors Community Foundation, which has seen him take part in numerous projects involving local charities, hospitals and schools, including Premiership Rugby’s award-winning HITZ scheme.

The Worcester-born star takes an active role in the innovation, development and delivery of Foundation programmes as well as his responsibility as a Trustee. He never misses a board meeting and always comes prepared with observations, challenges and new ideas.

However, he believes that other people at Sixways deserve just as hearty a pat on the back.

“It’s something that’s incredibly close to people’s hearts at Worcester, so to get that kind of recognition from Premiership Rugby is great,” said Pennell.

“To be honest, I feel probably not a worthy winner, given that the work that goes in behind the scenes at Worcester is incredible.

“Our foundation team in unbelievable, so it means a huge amount to me personally but really, it’s a reflection of the hard work that everyone else has put in.

“Our owners put a huge amount back into the community – it’s something really important to them – and that filters right through all the way down to the young guys in the academy, who, even last season, were volunteering their own time and cooking breakfast for the homeless a couple of times a week.

“When players come back from what can be some fairly difficult afternoons helping out, say at Acorns Children’s Hospice for example, and you see the positive messages they come away with.

“There are so many worthwhile causes in the local community, no matter where you are.”

Pennell picked up his award alongside four community champions at a prestigious ceremony at the House of Commons.

Sale Sharks’ Paula Bradbury was crowned Community Volunteer of the Year while Bristol Rugby Community Foundation Spectrum Project manager Kris Tavender was named Community Coach of the Year.

London Irish prop Richard Palframan was on hand to present HITZ participant Ben Nutt with the BreakThru Achiever of the Year award while Bath Rugby Foundation’s Todd Burge was handed the PLAY Achiever of the Year Award by Bath winger Jeff Williams.

And after being on hand to her these inspirational stories for himself, Pennell was very proud to be a part of another special Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards.

He added: “It’s massively important that you have links with the community as a club.

“It’s something that everyone in the organisation can get behind – players and staff alike – it’s the one thing that binds everybody.

“It’s incredibly important to us. It’s what our club is built around.

“It’s what you can take away from it as well, your growth as an individual and understanding that you’re incredibly privileged to do what you do. It’s just so worthwhile and giving something back from being in a privileged position as we are as professional sports people is really key.”

To read more about Premiership Rugby’s community programmes, please visit premiershiprugby.com/community or join the conversation #RugbyChangingLives

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