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Home > News > Prison team explore new horizons at Warrington RFC
Your News Prison team explore new horizons at Warrington RFC

A UNIQUE collaboration between Warrington RUFC and nearby Thorn Cross Open Prison and Young Offenders Institution which resulted in a match being played at the club over the festive season has been hailed as a huge success by all concerned.

The Rugby Football Union has been reaching out to all aspects of community life for many years now and the game at Walton Lea Road on December 27 was a perfect example of that outreach activity.

Ex-Sale wingman and Warrington Community Rugby Coach Simon Verbickas was the instigator of the link which has taken him into Thorn Cross to deliver rugby coaching thanks to the encouragement of Brian Grieve, the Resettlement Manager at the prison.

With Richard Woodward, the Warrington RFC Community Volunteer Coordinator, also closely involved, the project quickly gathered momentum as staff and prisoners all warmed to the initiative.

We want to give our people the tools to help change their lives around and rugby is such a fantastic game which extends beyond simply playing. said Brian Grieve: Our lads loved the idea and now everyone is on-board and the staff are really positive. Discipline has never been a problem on the pitch and the attitude is fantastic, with everyone well motivated and keen to show what they can do.

The first significant milestone for the scheme was the appearance of four Thorn Cross players in the Warrington senior team, but the decision to field a prison team against Warrington and play at the club was the high spot of the season and a landmark in a number of ways beyond attracting the clubs best crowd of the season.

The match was a marvellous and unique occasion in which everyone played there part - the lads, Warrington RUFC, the sports club, the RFU and the supporters who braved the elements, among them the two highest-ranking governors at Thorn Cross. said Grieve.

Theres no doubt that Warrington and the RFU are influencing peoples lives for the better by giving them the confidence through rugby to make huge changes. Their confidence is sky high since the partnership has been set up and everyone involved can be proud of themselves.

A huge amount of credit must go to Warrington RUFC management, players and staff for the way theyve embraced this partnership and welcomed the lads openly and treated them with massive dignity and respect. Its been a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved.

Nor did the positive themes end with the game. Says a delighted Mr Grieve: There has been a good deal of publicity involved, all of which has been positive and really supportive - not just towards Thorn Cross, but also to the RFU, Warrington Sports Club and Warrington RUFC.

But there have also been more developments. Simon (Verbickas) has agreed, in conjunction with the Thorn Cross gymnasium staff, to deliver a "Rugby Ready" course followed by the delivery of the RFU Level One coaching badge course.

Also, since the match the majority of the squad involved have been finding out details of their nearest rugby club so that they can continue playing when they return home, a reflection of just how much they enjoyed playing. Hopefully this will aid in their resettlement and help to channel their energy.

Probably the best outcome is that one of the Warrington players has enquired about our programme at Thorn Cross, visited us, conducted an interview and agreed to employ a prisoner on a full-time basis when he is discharged, which is fantastic news.

And all these wonderfully positive outcomes flowing from a rugby coaching offer its fantastic stuff which hopefully will continue and for which were very grateful.

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