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Oakham Rugby Club's Barbara Crellin and Michael O'Connor from Stamford Rugby are nominated in the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer of the Year 2020 awards

Two rugby club volunteers have been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

Oakham's Barbara Crellin and Michael O'Connor of Stamford Rugby Club have been put forward for the final national shortlist for the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer of the Year 2020.

The programme gives grassroots rugby clubs a unique opportunity to recognise their volunteers and the duo were overwhelmed at their nominations.

Barbara Crellin (centre). (45266571)
Barbara Crellin (centre). (45266571)

Barbara said: "My involvement with the county RFU means I know about these awards happening, but I never expected to be nominated myself. I was gobsmacked."

Michael added: "It came as a huge shock as I really didn't think I would get to the final. You get into volunteering because you have a passion for the cause, in this case rugby, so you are not expecting a pat on the back."

Barbara, who lives in Greetham, has been recognised for her tireless work in the resurrection and growth of the girls’ section at Oakham – alongside her long-term presence and support for the Minis and Juniors – which has provided opportunities for youngsters across Rutland to learn and enjoy the game.

She combines a variety of responsibilities at Oakham with her role as Leicestershire RFU president and also volunteers at the town’s vaccination centre and with Rutland Community First Responders.

The 70-year-old explained: “We started up the girls’ section almost two years ago with a handful of children and we are up to around 45 now across the age groups.

“It just snowballed from those early sessions. Kev (Howley), a fantastic coach, and I have worked very hard to sustain it.

“I can't wait to return on Sunday mornings when we can. It gives me great pleasure to see so many girls getting stuck in and enjoying it.”

Barbara’s nomination also saw her receive a special video message from Red Roses star Emily Scarratt, who represents Loughborough Lightning in the Allianz Premier 15s.

The England fly-half congratulated Barbara for her efforts in providing opportunities for young girls to play rugby in the period before the coronavirus pandemic – with some potentially following in Scarratt’s footsteps in the years to come.

Barbara’s granddaughter, Isla, is set for Leicestershire trials when action resumes having starred for Oakham’s Under-18s – and the family’s close links to the club don’t end there.

Barbara and her husband Keith – a past president – remain on the committee having played an active role within the club since their arrival in the town in 1981.

The couple’s children, Gary and Lynsey, are both heavily involved while Barbara and Keith have grandchildren pulling on Oakham shirts from Under-8s level right through to the men’s first team.

Michael O'Connor coaching Stamford Under 7s. (45266569)
Michael O'Connor coaching Stamford Under 7s. (45266569)

Barbara’s selfless efforts have underpinned it all and she knows just how vital volunteers are to grassroots rugby.

Barbara, who will discover if she is a national winner in a virtual awards ceremony tomorrow (Friday), added: “There is a role for everybody within a rugby club.

“I never played rugby, but I have always enjoyed the involvement with rugby culture. I have been to so many clubs in our county and been made so welcome at all of them.

“Come and have a look and make sure you enjoy it. I can guarantee rugby clubs would welcome you with open arms.”

The Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer Recognition Programme provides a platform to recognise all volunteers who have made a great contribution to their club and community – no matter what their role.

More than 100,000 volunteers give back to grassroots rugby all over the country and, thanks to the support of Mitsubishi Motors, their tireless work behind the scenes is being amplified nationwide.

Michael's work sees him head up the senior section of the club which includes the first and second team, the colts and the women's section.

He also coaches the Under 10s - where his son Harry plays - and he is an active member of the committee.

Michael also uses his profession in marketing to put Stamford Rugby Club on the map through social media and public relations with media coverage in the Stamford Mercury plus rugby publications across the country.

He continued: "You get a real sense of purpose from volunteering and the actions that you do can be seen in the people you are helping.

"When it comes to coaching you make sure there are fun sessions planned for the age-grade players in a safe learning environment and, with the seniors, working closely with them on their needs as players and challenging them to be better."

To find out more about the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer Recognition Programme and how you can volunteer to help your local rugby club, visit www.englandrugby.com/mmvrp

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