Oldham youngster thriving thanks to Project Rugby

Reporter: Paul Martin, Sportsbeat
Date published: 08 May 2024

An Oldham youngster who had never previously picked up a rugby ball has credited the sport with boosting his confidence on and off the field.

Wilson Ogbeide, who was born in Spain before moving to our town aged eight, enjoyed football and basketball before being introduced to the oval ball via the Project Rugby programme delivered by Sale Sharks Foundation.

“I didn’t have any idea about rugby as I hadn’t played before,” said Ogbeide, a year nine pupil at Oasis Academy Leesbrook.

“But when I started doing the lessons, I started getting more comfortable.

"I like the contact aspect of it, I like tackling and having fun while playing with friends.

“It has made me more confident, knowing I am good at the sport, and now I’m hoping to get involved with a local club.”

Project Rugby is delivered in partnership with Gallagher, title sponsor of Premiership Rugby, and the RFU and is designed to introduce as many people as possible to the benefits of rugby.

With a specific focus on engaging participants from traditionally underrepresented groups, no matter their background or ability.

Project Rugby facilitates sessions that are easily accessible within local communities thanks to coaches and volunteers from Premiership Rugby clubs and Club Foundations across the nation.

Mark Irving, Sale Sharks Foundation community coach, has had a long involvement with the programme and has taken pride in seeing Ogbeide’s progress.

“It’s my fifth year involved with Project Rugby and it gets better every year,” he said.

“Stories like Wilson’s are why Project Rugby is so important.

"Seeing Wilson grow in confidence through rugby has been massively rewarding.

“We go into schools who don’t have the opportunity to offer the sport.

"A lot of teachers haven’t taught rugby before, so they are also learning from us, which is very valuable as well. It’s growing all the time and it’s an amazing programme.”

“The biggest thing for me is smiles on faces and at the end of sessions.

"Even when it’s pouring down with rain, they are still getting stuck in.

"They go into their next lessons buzzing and they are enjoying themselves, which is what we want and why we do the programme.”

Since the inception of Project Rugby in 2017, more than 100,000 people have participated in sessions held at over 200 different locations across England.

The community programmes support participants to seek out local grassroots teams helping them to reap the benefits of playing regularly.

Chris Patterson, Gallagher’s Regional Managing Director for the Northwest, said: “It is brilliant that Project Rugby is having such a positive impact on the lives of young people.

"Wilson’s story is a testament to how much this initiative is helping to make rugby more inclusive and inspire the next generation.

“We are really proud to support Project Rugby and the work it does to give young people exciting opportunities to develop their skills and find their passion for the game.”

To find your nearest Project Rugby session, please click here

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