Women's rugby treble and Ponty partnership honoured at Sport Awards

USW student Joe Popple, who is assistant coach and a Pontypridd RFC player, with USW Women’s Rugby team members Jasmine Hare, captain Freya Jones, Toni Lloyd, Elizabeth Newell, and head coach Mark Hutton. USW Sport Awards 2018

USW student Joe Popple, who is assistant coach and a Pontypridd RFC player, with USW Women’s Rugby team members Jasmine Hare, captain Freya Jones, Toni Lloyd, Elizabeth Newell, and head coach Mark Hutton.


Two individuals and a team of rugby stars were honoured at the University of South Wales (USW) 2018 Sport Recognition Awards last Friday.

Presented by BBC Wales football correspondent Rob Phillips at a special ceremony at the Sophia Gardens Cricket Stadium on May 11, the awards recognise the academic and sporting achievements of both the students and staff in USW’s Sport department.

In the Female Sports Person of the Year category, Strength and Conditioning student Hannah Bluck won the award following a year of highs on the rugby pitch, which she achieved despite a major injury setback.

After successfully representing a number of teams in football, Hannah, below, was struck by a leg injury, and told she may never be able to compete again.

In the Female Sports Person of the Year category, Strength and Conditioning student Hannah Bluck to the award . Sport Awards 2018However, she fought her way back to fitness and decided to focus on playing rugby rather than football. After starting several games for the USW team, she was chosen to play for Cardiff Blues, and then the senior Wales team, who she represented and scored for in this year’s Women’s Six Nations. 

Nominated by Ben Daniels, USW’s Head of Rugby Development, who said: “Hannah's story is quite remarkable over the last 12 months. She is a credit to the University of South Wales.”

Another success for the game at USW has been that of the Women’s Rugby First XV, who have had a very good year on the pitch.

As well as being unbeaten for the whole year – having scooped the BUCS Western 2A league and gained promotion, and won the Western Conference Cup – they were named as Team of the Year at the USW awards.

The plaudits have come from across the university community.

“The reason for my vote for the women is that they have done the double this year, winning both cup and league undefeated,” said student Joe Popple in his nomination. 

“They work extremely hard, both on and off the field, and apply themselves as professionally as they can. These girls are a big credit to the university and deserve every award.”

And adding to the evening of success for women’s rugby, Mark Hutton was named Coach of the Year for guiding the team to their on-field accolades 

Dr Tudor Williams, Director of Sport USW, said: “These are well-deserved awards for both the individuals and team. We are delighted to honour their achievements.

“USW is working hard to develop women’s rugby, and to ensure that the success that is achieved on the pitch is matched behind the scenes by the hard work of the staff and students.

“Our enhanced Sport Park in Treforest allows us to develop the athletes and support specialists of the future, making sure they can access cutting-edge facilities that will help them in their sport careers.

“Hannah, Mark, and the women’s team, have shown how USW can help them succeed, and are an inspiration for future students.” 

In addition, two-time Commonwealth Games bronze medal winner Stephen Jenkins was inducted into the University of South Wales’ Hall of Fame.

The table tennis star is a psychology graduate from what was the University of Glamorgan, (now USW), and is now a full-time coach for Table Tennis Wales.

Stephen is a British team champion and British singles bronze medallist and this year he helped coach the Wales table tennis team at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Jenkins represented Wales at four Commonwealth Games, in Manchester in 2002, Melbourne in 2006, Delhi in 2010 and Glasgow in 2014.

Dr Tudor Williams said: “The University of South Wales’ Sport Hall of Fame was started last year to celebrate and recognise the inspirational achievements of our alumni.

“As a nominee, a recipient must have successfully participated or coached at a senior international standard in their sport.

“The first person to be inducted was Olympian and Welsh rugby International, Nigel Walker.

“This year inducting someone of the sporting stature of Stephen Jenkins into our Hall of Fame enables us once again honour our alumni and provide another fantastic role model for our students.”


Meanwhile, a partnership which helps to develop the rugby stars of the future has been recognised with a special award.

The work Pontypridd RFC does in collaboration with the University of South Wales (USW) was also honoured at USW’s annual awards evening, with the club named as Partner of the Year. The award was accepted by Emma Rogers on behalf of Pontypridd RFC.Emma Rogers of Pontypridd RFC accepted the Partnership Award during the USW Sports Awards 2018

The work that Pontypridd does with USW has helped in the development of the specialist rugby pathway offered at USW.

Through the system, young players are given a chance to work on their rugby skills while also getting support with their academic development.

“The award for Pontypridd RFC is in recognition of the club’s support for the rugby pathway, and how it is helping to develop the players so they can also continue their study,” said Paul Rainer, Head of Sport Coaching at USW.

“We’ve worked hard for more than two years to get it in place, so the youngsters can go from the Pontypridd and Rhondda Schools U15 Dewar Shield teams, then progress to the Blues North Under-16s, Coleg Cymoedd/Blues Under-18s, them come to USW to study, while also having the chance to play for Pontypridd RFC and Cardiff Blues.

“It’s been a great success – we’ve had seven boys this year that have played for the Blues in the British & Irish Cup, nine who have been in the Pontypridd rugby squad, and two have secured professional contracts with the Blues. Many of these have followed this pathway.

“We can’t overestimate how Pontypridd’s support is vital to building on this success, and we’re delighted that this has been recognised.”

Pontypridd RFC Head Coach Justin Burnell added: "Pontypridd Valleys Rugby Initiative, in collaboration with Pontypridd Schools, Coleg y Cymoedd, USW, Pontypridd RFC and Cardiff Blues, has created a clear pathway for young aspiring rugby players, strength & conditioning coaches, team managers, rugby coaches and performance analysts in conjunction with their education.

“We are delighted to work with USW on developing this partnership, and to have been honoured at the Sports Awards. We look forward to building on these successes and developing more future rugby stars.” 


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