Rugby is not just about what happens on the pitch, and nobody demonstrates that better than this year’s nominees for the HITZ Best Rugby Performer award, supported by Land Rover.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme, which works with over 2,000 disadvantaged 14-19 year-olds across England every year.
To celebrate the hard work put in by countless individuals up and down the country, the 2017 HITZ Awards will take place on November 21 at the BT Centre in a glittering London ceremony.
One of the five gongs on offer is the HITZ Best Rugby Performer award, supported by Land Rover, that recognises a young person whose progress in the sport of rugby – on and off the pitch – has helped them overcome a range of challenges and progress back into education, training or employment.
This year’s nominees are Exeter Chiefs’ Callum Currey, Taylor Griffiths of Harlequins, and Milton Kachecha from Northampton Saints.
The hard task of whittling down the nominees to a final three fell to a group of judges, including representatives from Premiership Rugby and Land Rover.
“All of the individuals had very different backgrounds and their level of determination both on and off the field is inspiring,” said Scott Dicken, Marketing Director at Land Rover UK.
“It was promising to see the progress made by all nominees during their time so far on the HITZ programme.
“As always the HITZ programme produces some inspirational stories of young people who have overcome physical and emotional challenges in their lives.
“Since the HITZ programme’s inception in 2013, Land Rover has been proud to follow and support the progress of its young adults. This year’s group of nominees is testament to the great work being delivered by the clubs, HITZ officers. The achievements of the HITZ highlights the ability of rugby to positively impact people’s lives and help them overcome everyday challenges.”
Callum had a history of drug use and was often in trouble with the police, moving five times within the care system in a single year while also being expelled from a number of schools. He had never tried rugby before but since joining the HITZ programme at Exeter Chiefs Callum’s attitude has changed and he has now completed his BTEC folder to a high standard and is playing regular rugby.
Before joining the HITZ programme, Taylor had been playing colts rugby for Twickenham Rugby Club, but the loss of his father in 2013 led to problems and he was charged with two counts of GBH. The HITZ programme at Harlequins not only reignited his love of rugby but has also seen him begin work as a trainee mechanic.
The final nominee is Milton, who struggled in school after arriving from his home country of Zimbabwe, and was quick to turn to anger due to his confidence being knocked while struggling academically.
However, Milton played a bit of rugby in his home country before moving over and picked the sort back up in England, helping his colts team at Old Northamptonians to win the Alliance Cup at Franklin’s Gardens.
But rugby gave Milton much more than just joy on the pitch as it boosted his confidence and helped him turn his life around and get back on track, with him now understanding that he needs to work hard to achieve his dreams in rugby and academically.
“Callum’s development from never playing rugby before to playing at a senior level is a fantastic achievement,” Dicken added. “Callum has provided a good example of how rugby can increase confidence and build team work skills.
“Taylor’s background has required him to show a strength of character to contain his frustration, which he has been able to improve through HITZ training and education. He now understands himself a lot better, which will be a huge benefit in any task he undertakes in future work or sport environments.
“Milton’s ability to adapt in a new cultural environment and his aspirations to develop as a rugby player are inspiring. Evidently, Milton has used his passion for the sport to develop adaptable skills which will benefit him for the rest of his life.”
This year’s glittering HITZ Awards will take place at the BT Centre on Tuesday 21 November where participants, mentors and rugby stars past and present will gather to celebrate the programme’s achievements. Follow all the action at @HITZRugby