Final Call for Clubs to Nominate ‘Real Rugby Heroes – Game Changers’ | Newry Times

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Friday, April 16th, 2021
Community, Sport

SONI – the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland – and Ulster Rugby have extended the deadline for applications for their community rugby club bursary fund.


Ulster Rugby Players - Final Call for Clubs to Nominate ‘Real Rugby Heroes - Game Changers’ | Newry Times - Newry rugby


The final opportunity to submit nominations will be on 21 April until 5 pm.

The ‘Real Rugby Heroes – Game Changers’ fund will reward the efforts of clubs and volunteers throughout Co. Down who have embodied the spirit of community rugby by keeping their players and the community engaged throughout the pandemic.



Entries to date have shown the incredible impact that Ulster Rugby clubs and volunteers have had on their communities throughout lockdown, with activities varying from a relay run to raise money for club floodlights, to charity drives.

Co. Down clubs are encouraged to submit any activity they feel is deserving of reward and recognition.

A total fund of up to £3,000 is available across three categories which will be much-needed financial support to clubs as they prepare to welcome members back.


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This bursary programme is an extension of the acclaimed SONI Real Rugby Heroes initiative which has been rewarding volunteers for their invaluable contribution to the domestic game in Ulster for over five years. 

Last year, SONI repurposed the programme to offer over 20 bursaries to clubs that switched their focus to supporting the community around them during the initial stages of the pandemic.

Last year, Ballynahinch RFC and Coleraine RFC were awarded the maximum bursary of £1,000 each. 

Both clubs took an active role in helping their communities throughout the pandemic.



Coleraine RFC offered the free use of its car park for staff and patients at the neighbouring Causeway hospital as demand for parking increased, as well as being involved in a community response initiative.

At Ballynahinch RFC, the team delivered food parcels, donated refreshments to emergency services and raised funds for mental health services.

This year, Co. Down clubs are being encouraged to apply for the bursary.

Applications will close at 5 pm on 21 April.

Three bursaries, each offering up to £1,000 are available in the following categories:

Category 1– Real Rugby Heroes.  Game Changer – Community Club Award. 

Category 2 – Real Rugby Heroes.  Game Changer – Keeping the Kids Involved. 

Category 3 – Real Rugby Heroes.  Game Changer – Health and Wellbeing Award. 



Alan Campbell, Managing Director of SONI, said, “We’re proud of our relationship with Ulster Rugby, a partnership that has endured for more than five years, and are delighted to continue to support and work closely with them during these challenging times. 

“Throughout the pandemic, Ulster Rugby’s Co. Down clubs have pivoted to become a vital community resource, helping to support vulnerable people, to bolster community spirit and ultimately, to show that Rugby is more than just a game.

“With this in mind, we have decided to provide this fund, in partnership with Ulster Rugby.”

Barry Willis, Rugby Operations Manager at Ulster Rugby said, “I have been hugely impressed by the efforts that our clubs and volunteers have made to repurpose resources to help their communities during the pandemic. 

“From delivering food parcels to raising funds for mental health services, they have all reacted incredibly quickly under pressure to support the most vulnerable members of our society.

“We would like to recognise their contributions under the most trying of circumstances and would encourage all of our clubs to apply for the ‘Real Rugby Heroes – Game Changers’ bursary programme.”

The deadline for applications is 5 pm on 21 April, and clubs can apply by filling out the online application form.



SONI is responsible for the safe, secure, and reliable supply of electricity into the heart of communities across Northern Ireland.

Currently, SONI is developing a greener energy system that will enable the grid to handle 95% of renewable energy at any one time.

For more information on SONI visit: or follow on twitter: @soni_ltd and Facebook: @SONIElectricityNI  


Keep up to date with all the latest Northern Ireland Coronavirus / Covid-19 news HERE.


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