Ulster and Ireland legend Chris Henry will become the first player to have a testimonial with the Kingspan Stadium club.
Henry made his Ulster debut 10 years ago and is closing in on 200 appearances for the province and has 24 international caps for Ireland.
In association with the Chest, Heart and Stroke charity, the abrasive flanker has planned a number events during the year which he hopes the fans can get involved with, kicking off with Ulster’s home pre-season friendly against Gloucester on August 18.
Henry is delighted to be having a testimonial and to be working closely with a charity that has a special meaning for him personally.
“My stroke in 2014 has been well documented - it seems long ago now,” he said.
“When that set-back happened to me it was a no brainer for me to get involved in the Chest, Heart and Stroke charity. I was left with no lasting affects but the amount of people I met doing events with the charity, it’s so sad to see how peoples’ lives have been affected so much.
“There are very few people that won’t know a family member or close friend that has suffered a heart attack, a stroke or a mini stroke; it’s a fantastic charity and I’m just delighted they wanted to be involved with me and it is a great partnership. They have a lot of exciting ideas for the next 12 months,” added Henry.
“Sunday pyjama runs is the latest thing they are doing, I’ve already done a dress run but didn’t wear a dress! The people are brilliant the main goal is to have an exciting year and raise awareness for the charity and celebrate my career
“I’m not saying this definitely my last year playing rugby but if it is, what a way to go out and I’m just really honoured to be given the opportunity to pull off something like this.”
It was Ulster’s Operations Director Bryn Cunningham who suggested the testimonial.
Henry said: “It was Bryn offered me it, he said it was something Ulster never had before and something they want to start doing.
“I’ve been around a long time with Ulster and have never left to go further afield so whenever he mentioned it to me it was something I didn’t know much about.
“I know it’s a lot more common in England and it was really exciting when he told me about it, I did a bit of research and spoke to Gareth Steenson in England about it - it’s crazy that it’s coming around now and hopefully we have an exciting year ahead planned.
“It’s totally up to what the player wants to do and I thought it would be good to put on a series of events that run the length of the year.
“Most testimonials you have a big dinner which is the highlight but I wanted to provide an opportunity for everyone to get involved. It is just not going to be a black tie dinner, there are going to be smaller events which hopefully the fans will want to engage in and get involved.
“The charity Chest Heart and Stroke want to use it as a springboard for everything they have coming up over the next 12 months and it just made sense to use this to engage with everybody.
“I’ve a few things up my sleeve with Malone Rugby Club and Wallace High School throughout the year because that’s where it all began.
“Bryn was saying it’s important that players remember their roots and for me it’s a bit nervous as I’m the first player to do this.
“There is no reason if this goes well, hopefully it will be continued over the next few years for players that have done 10 or more years.”