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World leading rugby league club given Lottery support

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When it comes to commitment to rugby league and disability sport, one man stands out: Stephen Jones, Head Coach of the National Lottery supported Wheelchair Rugby League club, the North Wales Crusaders. 

And despite the pandemic, Stephen has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make the sure the Crusaders is stronger than ever. 

Already, the club has been named Club of the Year 2020 by the Rugby Football League and then Club of the Month in March by Parasports UK. It is the only club in the world to have three teams playing in the same league system and of all the established clubs in the UK, it is the one that has seen the biggest growth in members.

 

But Stephen is certainly not content for the club to stand still and enjoy its success. During Covid, he has been working hard to set up new teams. It will be the first ever club to set up a Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) side which is a version of rugby league which allows non wheelchair users with disabilities to play the game.

Mental health too has been at the forefront of Stephen’s thinking. In fact, just before lockdown a number of coaches at the Crusaders underwent mental health training:

“We have organised get togethers over Zoom so we can check in on each other. 80% of our members have been shielding and many of our players have suffered life-altering injuries so it’s been important to keep talking and making each other laugh. Lots of people have been really struggling.”

Stephen may be retired but the work undertaken to take the club from strength to strength is the equivalent of a full-time job. He is also head coach of the Welsh international Wheelchair Rugby League squad.

Yet, Stephen has disabilities too. He is currently not a wheelchair user but suffers from Genetic Muscular Degenerative disease and has recently been diagnosed with Merrf syndrome which affects different parts of the body, particularly the muscles and nervous system.

But Stephen’s passion for the club and for offering opportunities to play rugby league is unstoppable. And he pays tribute to the contribution that the National Lottery has made:

“The National Lottery has had an enormous impact. It helped us get the club up and running in 2013. Each of our sport wheelchairs cost £1500 and we have 40 of them now which have been funded by the National Lottery.

“And this year, the National Lottery money we have received through the Sport Wales Be Active Wales grant means that the club will still be here next year. We had no funds coming in but we still had to pay out for insurances and storage so the grant came as very welcome news!”

With the help of National Lottery funding, thousands of grassroots sports workers and volunteers from local clubs and organisations across the UK, have been be able to continue to help the nation to remain active, happy and motivated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thanks to National Lottery players, £30 million is raised every week for good causes, many of which are supporting the most vulnerable in our communities across the UK during the Coronavirus crisis.

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