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Last week, along with our partners at RDJ Sports Development, we ran another MRRF camp, this time at Taunton School. From skills development to technique training, fitness to teaching of rugby values, the camp did it all. This would not be possible without all your amazing support! We hope that everyone had a fantastic time and thank everyone, coaches, players and parents, for their time and effort in bringing another successful camp together.
If you are interested in participating in or hosting a camp, check out our social media or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a foundation created in the memory of a police officer, it is natural for us to focus on stories and individuals from within that sector. That’s until we heard the fascinating exploits of Sean, a social worker from South London who has family connections with Croydon police and thus empathy with the Ratana community. Sean wanted to do something to demonstrate the supportive bond between the social worker and police community. He needed something bold, something that would push his limits. So he set his eyes skyward.
High in the Bernese Alps stand the three sibling mountains Mönch, Eiger and the Jungfrau. They are a formidable and highly recognisable set of peaks and the envy of mountaineers everywhere. On the 30th July, after a delay due to weather, Sean began his own scramble for a summit. Overcoming a broken finger and inexperience with climbing, the South London social worker packed his bags, grabbed a Matt Ratana Rugby Foundation shirt and set off to take on Mönch.
The climb was tough and Mönch is no easy feat for even practiced climbers. Inexperience began to rear its ugly head soon enough and eventually cliff face after cliff face proved too much. To quote Sean: “Turns out I’m a really bad mountain climber!” Regardless, he made it to 3700m, 400m off the summit but a mightily impressive first climb. Instead, he reached the neighbouring slopes of Eiger as a consolation for his already incredible efforts. And he was not put out, the climb did not extinguish the spark but instead birthed a fire which he hopes will fuel him up another peak next year.
Besides settling family feuds about the state of his fitness, Sean did this to show the ability and camaraderie of all first responders and their support for causes like MRRF. As for us – we could not be prouder of Sean and his sheer perseverance. We thank and congratulate him for his efforts and wish him the best of luck next year on his climb. Hopefully he will get just as nice a photograph as this year!
On the 10th of June, with blue skies and cool breezes, Frome Rugby and Football Club welcomed rugby players and lovers from across the country. The Frome 7s tournament boasted an immense pool of talent throughout the Men's Social, Super Social and Open, and the Ladies Open and Social. Our very own Ratana Tao team was placed in the most competitive of the 5, the Men’s Open. The stage was set for an exciting day of rugby and a chance for RT7s to overcome both their strong competition and the combination of sunshine and music telling them to just relax.
The first match began with Bamboo team taking an early lead against Ratana. Ratana fought back, with Connor scoring back-to-back tries. With a few minutes left, Ratana was unable to equalize, ending the match with Bamboo winning 35-24. The second game was tough for Ratana, losing two players to injury. Despite fighting back to tie the score at halftime, Marist Old Boys took the lead and won the game 43-12. In the final game, Ratana faced the unbeaten Empire team. With two players already out due to injury, Ratana struggled to keep up and Empire scored four tries before halftime. The second half brought no respite, as Empire pushed the score 41-0.
This was, by far, Ratana Tao’s toughest competition to date. Every member of the team showed incredible heart and a truly inspirational passion. No matter the results, the Matt Ratana Rugby Foundation is proud of the work and effort put in by all the players, coaches, and staff. Ratana Tao remains a strong manifestation of our values: wellbeing and inclusion, discipline and fairness, sportsmanship, and respect. The only path for both the team and Foundation is forward and we are not just committed, but extremely excited to continue growing.
Emotions ran high on a landmark day for the Foundation, as our men’s team emerged victorious from the Eggchasers Sevens tournament at Reigate. It was not exactly classic Sevens weather, and the pitch was more late November than early May, but the miserable conditions could not dampen the irrepressible team spirit amongst players, coaches and supporters. After a tough semi-final against Jamaica, we took on Nigeria Stallions in the Shield final, producing our best rugby of the day to win 17-7. A magnificent effort from everyone involved, and we hope this will be the first of many trophy-winning days for Akuma Ratana Toa! Full match reports, and details of forthcoming fixtures, where support is always welcomed, can be found at: https://m.facebook.com/groups/730016021643350/?ref=share
Police officers have always been looked up to as fearless protectors of the community. But recently, some officers went above and beyond the call of duty by undertaking a challenging 5km obstacle course while wearing full protective riot gear. The Foundation would like to take a moment to celebrate the officers from Team Hackney and TSG Units 4 and 5. To complete an obstacle course that is already tough, and to do it in full gear, requires a high level of fitness and mental strength. These officers showed that they are not only physically fit but also mentally determined to achieve their goals. This level of commitment to their profession is admirable, and it's a clear indication of how much they care about their communities.
The Foundation’s partnership with Spartan remains vital in the development of our ‘Let’s Play Rugby’ programme. We are adamantly focused on making rugby a positive force in communities around Croydon, promoting and delivering rugby-based activities and programmes that foster community cohesion, social inclusion, health and wellbeing and personal development. Through our various initiatives, the Foundation engages with young people from diverse backgrounds and provides them with opportunities to learn, grow and succeed through rugby. The Foundation's coaches and mentors work closely with local schools, youth clubs, community groups and other organisations to deliver rugby programs that promote teamwork, respect, discipline and resilience.
We hope to make the Spartan races a bi-annual event for the Foundation. While the first two races have only involved police officers, the races are open to everyone and we encourage you to join us in October for the next one.
Exciting developments for the Foundation as we spent an encouraging and enlightening evening at Warlingham RFC recently. Here we launched the first club initiative in our Croydon project, in partnership with our friends at STAR Scheme.
Christian Lang and Dan Wooler from STAR presented our shared vision and introduced the programme to several local clubs.
We were met with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. Once up and running at Warlingham, where coaches are already being specially trained and empowered, we aim to grow our reach further into the neighbouring communities via other participating clubs.
In allegiance with STAR we will encourage and assist local youngsters, by giving rugby a try, to experience the welcoming, supportive, nurturing environment of their local rugby family, and to keep coming back.
“After all the waiting and preparation, it feels excited and uplifting to see our plans rolling into action and gathering real momentum” said the Foundation’s Garry Gordon, seen here with Dan Wooler from STAR.
Garry Gordon & Dan Wooler, respectively.
2nd October was a massively significant day for the Foundation… As a curtain-raiser to the NPC meeting between Counties and Wellington, the police districts of Auckland and Counties Manukau renewed their long-standing rivalry. The teams met at the Navigation Homes Stadium, ready to battle for the Matt Ratana Trophy.
In an extremely close-fought match, there was never more than a score between the sides. Ultimately, Counties held on to their narrow half-time lead. Their defence standing strong against a concerted Auckland attack, securing the win at 26-24.
In every way it was a game that a certain charismatic prop forward would have relished… fiercely contested, uncompromising, no backward step taken, but played with a smile, and respect for referee, spectator, opponent and teammate alike.
Senior Constable Bryan Ward commented “It’s been an awesome day, played in great spirits throughout. The big fella would surely have approved. From the respectful minute’s silence which was observed before kick-off, to the post-match celebrations, things couldn’t have gone better. Every game we play for the Ratana Cup seems to get more important than the last, which is great.”
The success of this fixture, and on such a grand stage, is testament to the passionate commitment of the NZ police community to honouring Matt and endorsing his legacy. We all share the same resolve not just that he won’t be forgotten, but that he’ll be remembered in an enduringly positive and constructive way.
With the frustrating delays of the pandemic now behind us, there’s an infectious, energetic buzz within the Foundation at the prospect of what we can now achieve in partnership with our Kiwi colleagues. The encouraging strides being made in our project in the North Island with Rugby For Life only add to this sense of eager anticipation.
The future’s bright. Watch this space.
It was an emotional day at East Grinstead RFC on Saturday 24th September as we gathered to mark two years since Matt’s death.
Principally the event was a fond remembrance of the man himself, and a celebration of his endlessly positive impact on not just the East Grinstead family, but the wider rugby community too.
In numerous shared anecdotes, tribute was paid to Matt’s constructive influence on every aspect of the health of the club, essentially through the empowerment of its people.
Our dear friend Su Bushby spoke warmly of the comfort she continues to find in seeing everywhere the beneficial difference he made, and in “remembering what an inspiration he was to so many”.
Over lunch, the focus then turned to Matt’s ongoing legacy. As Club President Andy Poole put it: “So much positive and inspirational work has been achieved in his honour over the last two years”.
A comprehensive overview of the Foundation’s work was then given by our own Garry Gordon. We heard a hugely encouraging account of the progress of our first UK project, where the positive relationship we’ve established between several schools and Croydon RFC is already having a significant impact on local youngsters. Uptake has been heartening, numbers are growing, and the appointment of Lucy Ware to oversee the scheme will bring added drive and direction.
Equally promising were reports from New Zealand, where our partnership with Rugby For Life goes from strength to strength. With them we have been able to place coordinators, supervised by a dedicated Pathway Manager, in 8 of the 42 clubs in the Northlands region, and we remain committed to helping the remainder. The ultimate goal is to consolidate the position of rugby clubs at the heart of communities where young folk desperately need a focal point providing mentoring, guidance and support. The gains already made are motivating us to push on ambitiously and aim higher.
With insight also shared into the Foundation’s ongoing plans for kids’ rugby camps, the emphasis of the lunch was undoubtedly that, after two tough years, so much of value is already being achieved in Matt’s name. The potential to grow the Foundation and fulfil his legacy further was the prevalent sentiment of a poignant but uplifting day.
Massively encouraging news from the west country, where a pre-season friendly between Poole RFC and Dorset Police RFC raised a significant sum for the Foundation.
On 20th August two matches were played, in energy-sapping conditions on a rock hard pitch. The infectious enthusiasm from the healthy numbers of players, supporters and volunteers demonstrates how wholeheartedly the local community got behind this day of fun in the sunshine.
The backstory is a heartwarming one, and reaffirms precisely the values that we stand for. The event was the initiative of two Poole RFC club legends and teammates –one a currently serving Police Officer, the other the current Club Captain. The Matt Ratana Rugby Foundation was the charity they had chosen to dedicate the day to and raise money for. A Poole RFC player, Nick, was inspired to contribute to the day in his own way by encouraging future fixtures between the two community driven teams in tribute to Matt, and as a gesture to his club and local police force.
Having experienced a chaotic childhood and adolescence, characterized by a lifetime in the care system, repeated school expulsions and youth offending, he eventually found the positive and supportive environment he needed. Feeling at home with a foster carer (also a police officer and lifelong rugby devotee) and his family, he was introduced to the game of rugby as an early teenager.
Nick identifies this profoundly influential period as the turning point in his life. Now, in his early 30s, having joined his local club, he was inspired to “do something good”, recognising the help he received, and turning his own struggles into an ongoing contribution to youngsters who might be on the same road he once was. Learning of Matt’s endless energy and passion for youth rehabilitation through rugby was the prompt for this drive to raise both awareness and funds.
“Like everyone, I was deeply saddened by Matt’s untimely death. But the work his Foundation is doing to affirm his legacy really inspired me. The very same influences that turned things round for me, as a troubled teenager, are right there, precisely what the Foundation is championing. I’m proof that constructive, supportive mentoring, based on sporting values, can make all the difference. Now it’s all about helping the next kid. The potential for positive change is huge.”
We salute Nick for his frank openness, a reassuring endorsement of exactly what we’re striving to deliver. Our gratitude goes out to every single contributor from both Poole and Dorset Police. Above all we know for sure that Matt himself would absolutely love the spirit that shines out from the photo below!
Sgt Matt Ratana has been posthumously named the Unsung Hero award winner at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show.
Check out this great interview material kindly lent by BBC
Check out this great interview material kindly lent byTV3 NZ Newshub
Find the blog, "Matt we miss you so much.." where you can leave your memories of Matt and pay tributes.
Check out this great video from The Sun
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The Matt Ratana Rugby Foundation recently had the privilege of holding a parliamentary function to garner support for our ‘Let’s Play’ programme. We were elated by the enthusiasm of all those in attendance, including several notable leaders from the Croydon community.
Madam Civic Mayor Alisa Flemming is massively supportive of the sustainable model of ‘Let’s Play’: “I truly believe this programme will make a huge difference for children and young people. As someone who is from Croydon and cares deeply about its people, it is very clear that young people will benefit from being part of something so positive.”
‘Let’s Play’ is being made possible by the highly motivated partnership between MRRF and STAR Scheme. Our joint vision was perfectly illustrated by Christian Lang, managing director of STAR Scheme: “When we take those who are in greatest need and turn them into the people that lead the future, then we create what can only be described as the perfect model.”
Research has shown that a young person's ability to overcome Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is greatly enhanced if they have just one adult who is emotionally available to them. Having a relationship with a trusted adult helps children build the mental fortitude and resilience that is necessary in coping with their ACEs. Inevitably, this one relationship can be the difference between a child finding themselves in a classroom rather than a custody suite.
In March, the Foundation engaged around 140 children weekly through 4 schools. Entering into the new year, we will be collaborating with 13 schools and 3 corresponding local clubs. This would not be possible without support from people like Tunde Olayinka, a representative of the GLA, who showed his interest saying, “I was so encouraged by the values and ethos of The Matt Ratana Rugby Foundation and what they have already achieved for schools in Croydon to date. They are a great example of our policies for strengthening communities, improving access to sporting activities, strengthening civil life, supporting young people, and tackling inequalities while helping them find access to mentors and always available adults”.
The predominant mood was perhaps best expressed by MP Sarah Jones: “Croydon has the largest number of young people in any London borough, many of whom do not have the right support system in place both at home or in school. I am confident that MRRF&STAR will establish a positive influence within the community, because I believe that values of discipline, commitment and cooperation are vital to a child’s development. Rugby has a way of creating and inspiring unity, and the people of Croydon will only benefit from this programme.”
Rugby has the potential to be an immensely powerful influence in Croydon. Through its respectful bonds with teammates, opponents, coaches and referees, it instills values which go beyond the rugby pitch. Matt believed wholeheartedly in the ability of the game to strengthen communities, and MRRF hopes to bring Croydon into our growing whānau.