Inspiring individuals from Bath Rugby, Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors are up for a prestigious prize after being nominated for the HITZ Champion award, supported by Comic Relief.
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.
And 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 Champion award, recognising an individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to support HITZ participants to overcome personal barriers.
And this year’s nominees are Bath Rugby’s Jonti Johnson, Aaron Phelps Naqi of Sale Sharks, and Beth Robson from Worcester Warriors.
The hard task of whittling down the nominees to a final three fell to a group of judges, with Lisa Bedding among them and acknowledging that it wasn’t an easy job.
“The quality of the nominees was exceptionally high,” said Lisa, Sport for Change Grants Manager at Comic Relief. “There were some very strong applications and the stories of the applicants were incredibly compelling.
“Everyone could have been a winner. There were some really tough conversations amongst the judging panel.
“The HITZ programme continues to make long-lasting change to a range of young people across England and Wales. We’re delighted at Comic Relief to be a supporter of the HITZ programme.
“Rugby has the ability to act as a great hook for young people. The skills that it embeds in young people, such as discipline both on and off the pitch has the ability to make a real lasting difference on the lives of young people.”
Jonti is the manager of the Fitness First Bath Centre and has built a great rapport with the HITZ programme, offering free sessions and even personal training sessions to learners.
Aaron has been a member of the Sale Sharks Community Trust team delivering at HITZ Salford since 2015 and during the past 12 months has helped 46 learners complete qualifications or a work placement, improve their life skills and 80 per cent have gone on to a positive progression.
And the final nominee is Beth, who began volunteering on the HITZ programme at Worcester Warriors as part of a 40-hour work-based learning model at the University of Worcester and quickly became a students’ favourite, offering one-to-one support and being there for any student who wished to talk about their problems.
And after working hard to narrow the list down to a final three, Lisa believes any of Jonti, Aaron and Beth would be worthy winners on the night.
“I was impressed by the amount of work that Jonti had put into HITZ as someone who is not directly connected to the programme, having clearly seen the benefit of physical fitness for the young people,” she added.
“I was also impressed by Beth’s dedication to continue volunteering for HITZ whilst continuing her university studies.
“And Aaron has clearly gone above and beyond the remit of his job requirements. The results he’s achieved for the participants is really impressive, and credit to the hard work he’s put in.”
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