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Spirit of Rugby Award

Spirit of Rugby Award

Ronan OShea10 Apr 2023 - 05:17
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Club legend Mike Penhaligon, or Mr P, takes out Australia Spirit of Rugby Award

Mike Penhaligon, the driving force behind All Abilities Rugby in WA, has been rewarded with Rugby Australia's 2023 Nick Farr-Jones Spirit of Rugby Award.

Mike adds the award to his already long list of honours that include life membership of RugbyWA and both ARKS and Southern Lions clubs and the Cockburn Shire inspiration volunteers award.

Mike, who taught children with special needs for 42 years established WA's first All Abilities team at the Southern Lions club in 2017.

He started with just three players, now has a squad of 25, and the Lions have been joined by two other All Abilities sides at the Wanneroo Districts and Perth Bayswater clubs.

Mike was nominated for the award by RugbyWA.

"It came out of the blue. It knocked me back," he said.

"It's great to be recognised for something that brings together my two passions.

"One is working with people with special needs and the other of course is rugby.

"What I've been able to do is marry those two loves and put something back into the game that gave me so much.

"But, more importantly, this award is recognition of these young men and women and what they can do."

Mike was head of the Education Support Centre at Corpus Christi College, where he helped set up the combined high school rugby competition, before retiring in 2015.

He arrived in Australia from his native England in 1989 where he had played hooker, coached and been a committee member at Truro Rugby Club in Cornwall.

He continued to play when he joined ARKS, coached juniors, was club president for seven years and was behind the unsuccessful push to merge ARKS and the then Leeming club.

He joined the latter in 1998, taking on the presidency for seven years, as the club reformed and rebranded as Southern Lions.

Mike now has his focus on building All Abilities Rugby.

He is currently talking with four clubs in the Eastern States and one in New Zealand about setting up All Abilities teams.

He assists All Abilities sides when they play demonstration games at Golden Oldies carnivals and with training.

On RugbyWA game days Mike is still volunteering, helping to set up the ground, running touch, cooking the BBQ and selling raffle tickets.

Rugby Australia's citation said Mike's contribution to WA rugby had been priceless, providing opportunities for so many during his many roles.

"Mike's ability to create a healthy, positive club environment and culture is unique and he is loved by all at Southern Lions and throughout WA Rugby," RA said.

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