Sometimes in life you come across some special people who just want to make a difference by helping those who are not as fortunate as themselves. These are the kind of people who inspire everyone around them. I had the pleasure of meeting two of the co-founders of The Full Blood Project who both fit this profile.
Rob Griffiths and Nigel Scott created the Full Blood Project with the goal of helping develop youngsters who are less fortunate through the use of rugby league and in the future other sports. They have assembled a team which are using sport as a tool to educate and develop young talent in Fiji which is where Nigel is based and leading activities abroad. Rob is a sports events manager and his company has organised some of the biggest marathons around as he takes care of events management and oversees the work that goes on in the UK. He and the team are always looking to promote this fantastic project and were generous enough to give up some spare time to fill me in on the project from its inception to where they are now.
They are a humble pair and are in this solely to help those who need it as they volunteer their own time alongside full-time jobs to do so. They are a non-profit organisation and Rob and the team decided not to register as a charity as they wanted to bid for contracts within local councils and build a future through their own hard work and self-fund that work.
Rugby League has a lot of charities and organisations which grips people involved with the sport, from JoiningJack to RL4Alex and countless other charities which are supported by the rugby league communities. These are brilliant charities which deserve all the support they get and more however, if those in the rugby league community supported this project too it could substantially change our game and the future of a lot of the youngsters in the UK and around the world.
The project started with discussions between Nigel, who was already volunteering in Fiji, and Tyrone McCarthy who is now in Australia playing for Northern Pride. Nigel had contacts in Fiji and Tyrone was playing rugby league for Warrington Wolves at the time.
‘We just wanted to provide an opportunity for these youngsters who are out there and are phenomenal, phenomenally talented. So I had a bit of a discussion with Tyke (Tyrone) about trying to provide some opportunity for these Fijian boys.’
Tyrone’s original ambitions were to do the same in Ireland as he was a member of the Irish national side and he got speaking to his family friend Rob who shared their ambition and through the mutual passion they had, they created the Full Blood Project to ‘provide opportunity and empower youth.’
The sport of Rugby League has left a lasting mark on all of their lives and Rob wanted to give that gift to others without the pressure of having to become a professional athlete in the game. Tyrone is living his dream because of the sport but Rob has gone into sports event organising and the values of the sport have left a lasting mark on the way he leads his life. Nigel reached reserve grade level and has the sport to thank for his opportunity of postgraduate study with a rugby league scholarship at Leeds Metropolitan. He now uses the sport to impact the less fortunate to nurture a strong set of values and morals which will be with them for the rest of their lives.
They have been approached by other countries about the possibility of working with them and these include Serbia and Jamaica but Rob feels it is important that they expand the project to inner city locations here in the UK.
‘Every country or territory that we go into the project won’t be the same because every area has got different needs. We feel there is a need for the project in this country as well, so that could be inner city Leeds and working in schools with hard to reach people that have got bad attendance and use rugby as a way to keep them engaged.
‘We could go to Africa and it could be a way that we engage young people to teach them about sex education or we would vaccinate them. So really we’re not just about going in and teaching rugby it’s about understanding what the local issues are and how we can use rugby as an engagement tool and if we unearth the next Sonny Bill Williams then so be it.’
Nigel sees the talent first hand and couldn’t praise the youngster’s ability enough so when people use the stereotype of the game being full of ‘thugs’ then it frustrates him and the rest of the team. It is because of rugby league that he and the rest of the team are able to give these youngsters a chance to gain a better education, better prospects when they go into work and the morals the sport instils, which they will respect for the rest of their life.
‘The way that some of the players are portrayed and the way that some of the players sometimes condone themselves can improve, and that’s what’s going to hinder the game going onto its huge corporate possibilities.
‘The fact that thugs play the game, in my experience, is a really bad stereotype.’
In the sport of rugby league there is too much pressure on youngsters in England to become the next superstar of their generation and once a youngster doesn’t make it they are forgotten about. Kids playing the sport seem to think the only way they can be involved in the sport is if they are picked up by a club and when they reach 16 or over and haven’t been signed yet they stop playing the sport. The Full Blood Project wants to eradicate this and Rob feels youngsters in this country can learn a lot from those in Fiji.
‘What we’ve learnt from the Fijians as well is what positive impact they can make to the people over here, as teammates at any level. I think a lot of lads make scholarship at under sixteens and that was similar to myself, you kind of think you’ve made it and that you was better than everyone else, but these guys are really grateful and quite humble and I think those kind of characteristics are something they can really rub off on the UK talent.’
The project has a driving ambition to see young Fijians come to the UK to partake in scholarships with Super League clubs. Each year the NRL go over and pluck five to ten of the best kids around, but that is just a handful of the potential talent that is over there.
Rugby League is a sport which can be used to educate as well as provide a future career for youngsters across the world and sometime in the not so distant future you can expect to see the Full Blood Project doing that here in the UK. This is a project the whole community of rugby league can get behind and help them continue to help youngsters who are underprivileged into becoming the game’s next star or just simply a person with better prospects going forward in life.