PREMIERSHIP Rugby have revealed a shortlist of 20 inspiring individuals who have been nominated for a Parliamentary Award with two coming from Wasps.
Alexandros Ioannou and Kieran Bolton have both been nominated for awards with the former shortlisted for the Rugby Ambassador of the Year Award and the latter the Outstanding Achiever of the Year Award.
Ioannou, one of six shortlisted for the award, has grown into an unrecognisable young man in the last five years since he started playing rugby at 13-years-old.
Inspired after seeing a Wasps versus Northampton Premiership game, he signed up to get involved. This led to him being part of the Mixed Ability team set up as part of Project Rugby at local club Trinity Guild RFC.
Ioannou previously suffered from a confidence crisis, finding it difficult to communicate due to his autism and learning disabilities.
However, since he took the first step of picking up a rugby ball, he quickly showed what a valuable player he is – to the extent that he was asked to take the role of volunteer coach.
Gaining a sense of purpose and new aspirations, Ioannou has started his England Rugby Coaching Award with a clear career goal in mind. Electing to take up an apprenticeship in Sports Coaching with Premier Education, he has his sights set on coaching a grassroots club.
His story demonstrates the inclusivity of rugby and how it can be a positive outlet, shaping him as a person and his career pathway.
The Rugby Ambassador of the Year Award is designed to reward a participant who has excelled in any Premiership Rugby community programme which introduces rugby to new audiences.
They may have overcome physical, cultural or social barriers to become involved in the game whilst embodying the values of rugby.
Bolton, one of five shortlisted for the award, had a challenging upbringing and has had to deal with a lot of trauma from an early age.
He was taken into care at the age of six after his father took his own life, meaning he moved between foster homes on a regular basis.
The 17-year-old enrolled in the HITZ programme after deciding the traditional college education route was not working for him. The smaller class sizes and support from our HITZ officer were something that he greatly benefitted from.
The draw of getting experience that could develop into full time employment was something he was really keen on.
He impressed Coventry company Park Sheet Metal during a work placement and has been given the opportunity to continue to develop his skills with the automotive supplier – who work with customers including Aston Martin, Bentley and McLaren.
His impact at Park Sheet Metal has led the company to quickly recruit the next cohort of work experience students.
And the Outstanding Achiever of the Year Award is designed to reward a participant who has excelled in any of Premiership Rugby’s education, health or social inclusion programmes, highlighting the potential of the game to change lives off the field.
The winners will be crowned at the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Awards ceremony, attended by MPs, taking place at the House of Commons on Tuesday, July 12.