After 15 years as a professional rugby player, Mark Lambert’s on-field accomplishments are too numerous to list but it’s for his off-field work that he was honoured at last night’s Premiership Rugby Awards.
One-club man Lambert, a stalwart of the Harlequins front row for a decade and a half, was named Aviva Community Player of the Season during a glittering ceremony at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel from a six-strong shortlist.
The shortlist comprised not only experienced players such as Lambert, Bath Rugby’s Freddie Burns and Nili Latu of Newcastle Falcons but also up-and-coming talents Charlie Beckett of Gloucester Rugby, Saracens’ Joel Kpoku and Jacob Umaga from Wasps.
The award celebrates those who go the extra mile to make a difference in their local community through charity work – emphasising how much good Aviva Premiership Rugby stars do in their own time.
That certainly applies to Lambert and Quins team manager Graeme Bowerbank was there to accept the award on his behalf – commending the 33-year-old for his efforts.
“Mark has been great – he’s been with the club forever and a day,” said Bowerbank. “He’s so involved with everything in the local community but you can also see what he does on a global basis.
“He’s out in India right now helping Future Hope, which is a cause he’s been supporting for four years.
“Future Hope is an amazing charity – they came to us a few years ago and Mark and the boys really took it on board.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to actually go and see the world as well in that time off you have. It’s going to do something that really matters to you, seeing people who are nowhere near as privileged as we are but going out there and giving something back.
“Mark going what he’s been through with the club over the last 15 years means he is extremely proud of what that badge means and he’s the perfect ambassador for it. He is happy to go anywhere and everywhere and it’s great to watch.”
Lambert plays a key role in both the Harlequins community department and The Harlequins Foundation, undertaking lots of work both at home and across the world.
He has twice flown to India at his own expense to develop and deliver rugby programmes to street kids in Kolkata, as well as being involved with the Support to the Future Hope curry night fundraiser, the Harlequiz – which raised over £2,000 for The Harlequins Foundation – and reviewing 44 applications, whittling it down to seven that would receive funding, for the Brighter Futures Local Community Grants Programme in south-west London and Guildford.
In addition to being a consistent ambassador for the club, Lambert has also shown younger Quins players the importance of developing themselves off the field, something which Bowerbank was quick to highlight.
“He leads all the young boys in many things, so they’re learning from someone who really cares about their community,” he added.
“It’s fantastic because he teaches them other things as well. It’s a huge opportunity being a young rugby player but there are pitfalls that go with it, so without someone like Mark giving them that advice, it would be very easy to step into some of them.
“We’re trying to get the academy boys to run their own projects – little community projects, whether they are big or small, even down to the simple act of fundraising.
“There’s a lot more to it than just money arriving in the bank account, so Mark is out there helping them and it’s fantastic because he’s been one of them, out there and doing it. His voice matters to them.”