Established by Northland Rugby in 2018, the Rugby for Life charity (RFL) is set to evolve to the next level for the benefit of Northlanders.
Leveraging the power of rugby, RFL aims to develop people and communities, embrace positive change, and nurture pride within Northland.
It exists to lead social and economic change in our rugby communities, including rugby clubs and other rugby-related organisations, and aims to provide hope, skill and capability development for sustainable health and wellbeing into the future.
RFL has begun the next stage of their journey by engaging with local targeted rugby clubs throughout Northland through a series of workshops to gain an understanding of the clubs and their community's genuine need.
From here they want to form a strategic/action plan that clearly defines how working together with the clubs can achieve the objectives and priorities identified.
One of those priorities at the workshops was more support for the volunteers who run clubs. RFL has identified that volunteers just do not have the time, and often the skills, to progress strategic planning, project management or funding applications to move their clubs forward.
As such, RFL has offered a club coordinator role that would assist the clubs with these priorities as well as any other key initiatives identified by the club.
RFL will resource this role, as well as provide funding support for other outcomes, including club mentoring via RFL's own trustees, and access to a vast rugby network.
A pilot group of nine rugby clubs have been identified in the plan and it is hoped that the clubs will work collectively and use the club coordinators across a number of them to provide part-time roles.
As a charitable trust, fundraising for these initiatives is essential.
Their key fundraising event was recently held at the Duke of Marlborough in Russell, attended by more than 270 people.
The event was a celebration of the past 2-1/2 years and was also used to launch the next phase.
One of the pilot clubs is Te Rarawa and, seeing an opportunity to grow their leadership, committee member Jaqi Brown was asked to speak at the flagship event.
Jaqi's speech to a room full of possible funders and stakeholders spoke glowingly about grassroots rugby, the successes, the challenges and the opportunities especially for youth players.
Jaqi said: "Rugby is a vehicle for positive change and by giving generously you can be part of something great. I was humbled when Sir Graham Henry shook my hand afterwards and told me what a great speech I had just made".
Jaqi is now liaising with RFL as they draft the documentation for their new Coordinator Role in what she hopes will be a partnership with the other Far North pilot clubs Te Aupouri, Panguru and Kaitaia.
RFL's mission is "growing rugby, developing people, inspiring Northland" and has three key pillars:
&bellfu; Wellbeing – improved holistic health such as mental, physical and social fitness
&bellfu; Employment and Training – facilitating pathways into employment and training programs through appropriate education provider relationships that are relevant to our rugby
&bellfu; Club and Community Sustainability – nurturing Northland rugby clubs to be sustainable and robust community assets, utilised all year round for multiple purposes.
What a fantastic community initiative; certainly one Sport Northland will be supporting into the future.
• Brent Eastwood is chief executive at Sport Northland.