Award nomination for rugby volunteer

Andrew Wilkinson with players from one of the junior teams at Blyth Rugby Club.
Andrew Wilkinson with players from one of the junior teams at Blyth Rugby Club.

Andrew Wilkinson of Blyth Rugby Club and Northumberland Rugby Union has been nominated for the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer of the Year Awards.

He was keen to become involved in grassroots rugby after a career of 23 years in the British Army – developing a passion for the game in between seeing active duty in, amongst other places, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Northern Ireland.

The regional ceremony will take place on Friday at Blackshaws Mitsubishi, Coopies Lane, Morpeth, and one of the volunteers will go through to the national final at Twickenham Stadium later in the year.

Three overall winners will be announced at the national event and each one will receive a Mitsubishi car for a year as a thank-you for their continued support of the game.

After leaving the British Army five years ago and settling with his family in Blyth, Andrew turned up at the local rugby club having moved within sight of the posts.

Initially, he was both playing for the second team and an assistant forwards coach with the Under 15s.

From this role, he was invited to join the Northumberland coaches and in 2015 he became lead coach for the county girls Under 18s squad.

Since taking on the team, they have gone from strength to strength and he is also continuing to work with the Under 16s boys team and teams at the Blyth club.

Andrew said: “I am proud to have seen a number of young people develop, both as individuals and as part of a team, through their dedication to rugby.

“It really is a sport that offers both physical and mental challenges, but also one which develops personality and friendship.

“It is rewarding to see the sport grow both within local clubs and at county level, particularly within the girls game.

“I hope that through this nomination I can represent the dedicated coaching staff at all levels across the county and continue to raise awareness of this great sport.”

On a personal level, involvement with rugby has helped him to deal with a more recent diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder from his time serving in the British Army.

After receiving a comprehensive residential treatment package from Combat Stress, a charity for veterans’ mental health, he realised that he had a lot to offer the community and he could continue to serve his country in other ways.

Alongside his commitment to both Blyth and Northumberland rugby, Andrew set out to raise £15,000 for Combat Stress to repay the cost of his treatment.

RFU Community Rugby Coach Jack Lambert, who nominated Andrew, said: “He has been and continues to be a great ambassador for the game and helped more people play more rugby.”