SONI rugby champion accolade for Portadown Panthers chairman Willie Gribben

Robin McCormick, General Manager of SONI presents the SONI Community Rugby Champion Award to Willie Gribben chairman of Portadown Panthers disability tag section
Robin McCormick, General Manager of SONI presents the SONI Community Rugby Champion Award to Willie Gribben chairman of Portadown Panthers disability tag section

Portadown rugby club volunteer, Willie Gribben, has dedicated an award he has won to everyone involved with the Portadown Panthers section at Chambers Park.

Gribben, chariman of the club, received the SONI Community Rugby Champion Award at the Ulster Rugby end of season gala awards dinner, for his work with the Portadown Panthers disability rugby group.

The club, founded in September 2013, is one of 10 in Ulster and Portadown, with a member of 27, is now the second biggest in the Province.

Honoured to receive the award, Gribben said: “I am the chairman and appreciated the club nominating me to be considered for the award, but this is for everyone involved in the group.”

He added: “It is recongition for this section with rugby.

“We were deligthed to be involved recently at the Guinness PRO12 game between Ulster and Leinster at Kingspan Stadium when some of the players took part in the half-time games with other disability rugby sections.

“That was recognition that grassroots and the disability group games have a place in Ulster Rugby.

“To be appreciated by the Ulster and Leinster fans meant so much to us. The majority of our players and parents are from a non-rugby background and to be involved in an Ulster Rugby culture really made them sit up and take notice of what was going on.

“They could not believe that their kids were being involving on the same pitch as Rory Best, Andy Trimble and Tommy bgowe.

“It is terrific for the sport,” said Gribben.

Gribben also called on all clubs from all sports to remember their volunteers.

“It is like all awards, there were three other nominations for this award and all are worthy of it.

“What it demonstrated to me is that perhaps clubs do not think enough about their volunteers and push them forwards for awards.

“I am grateful for Portadown for nominating me, but it was great to see the breadth of the nominees.

“They are being recognised and we have to do it in our own local area by our own sports advisory councils, Promote your sport push what you are doing and encourage people to recognise volunteers.

“No volunteer sets out to do anything for an award, they do it because they have a passion for what they are doing. Clubs have got to recognise those people are there and promote and continue the development of the volunteers. Nominate them for things and it is important the clubs recognise the volunteers,” Gribben added.