Since writing this for us in April 2019, Joe left Mill Hill Rugby Club to take on another position, but we’re delighted that he’s come back to the Project Rugby team to help run sessions for Barnet Mencap as a volunteer! We know how much our rugby players missed him and the difference he makes for our service users at these sessions, and can’t thank him enough.
Mill Hill Rugby Club tweeted: “Mill Hill Rugby Club are delighted to announce we have dedicated ourselves to extending and strengthening our partnership with Barnet Mencap. With our matching beliefs on equality, inclusivity and community, we have forged wonderful relations over the past few years and the club will ensure there is to be no end to this journey. Mixed Ability/Forwards coach Joe Healy has confirmed he will be volunteering on behalf of Mill Hill Rugby Club at Barnet Mencap’s Hub, alongside continuing coaching Project Rugby on a weekly basis.”
Here’s what Joe wrote for us in April 2019: My name is Joseph Healy, lover of all things rugby, proud father of seven children and Head Coach of Project Rugby at Mill Hill Rugby Club and Mill Hill RFC’s first team manager.
I started playing rugby for Mill Hill 11 years ago. It’s fair to say I was an 18 year old boy. I had nothing to do and felt that I didn’t belong anywhere. I found myself getting in trouble trying to please friends that, looking back, were never friends. Within a year of playing for Mill Hill I realised what was important in life; I had my first child, started a career with London Underground and got my first mortgage.
Some of you maybe thinking ‘how did Mill Hill RFC help me do that?’ Let me explain. I met a great bunch of lads that to this day are a big part of my life; I realised what the term ‘friend’ meant and made real friends. I knuckled down and started to push for my career with help from some of the senior members of Mill Hill. I was no longer involved in any mischief and my main focus outside of my family and my career was rugby. Playing on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – alongside that, I was socialising with respectable men that looked out for me. Rugby has taught me discipline and respect not just for others but also myself.
For the past 2 years I have been running Project Rugby along with Ed Wade and Jason Watson and have proudly watched it go from strength to strength. We started small. With only a couple of players and a small amount of support. With the help of Barnet Mencap we kept a steady flow of consistent numbers and most of those founding players are still with us today. They attend every week and wear the Mill Hill shirt proudly on the field. We couldn’t have done it without them, so a big thank you to all those individuals who stuck with us and believed in us!
As time went by, the numbers slowly began to increase and so did recognition. Saracens, who asked us to help start Project Rugby, asked us along to our first Tournament. From there we were asked along to play in two more tournaments at Allianz Park (Saracens’ home ground) and we even went along to compete at the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham, the home of English Rugby!
We’re also very proud of the Project Rugby Kit. Whilst watching on in the first tournament, I knew something was missing. Every team has their own uniform that they wore with pride and to me this side was no different. I decided that I needed to raise enough money to get a full kit for our team.
How? By doing a Tough Mudder with fellow Mill Hill RFC player, John Gilbert! We managed to raise enough funds to purchase the kit and I am proud to say that all funds came from within the Mill Hill Rugby family.
I like to think that we’ve developed a community at Mill Hill with the belief that Rugby is for all. The friendships between Project Rugby and Mill Hill players is one that has grown into one family and one that continues to grow consistently.
But at its core is Barnet Mencap. We would like to thank them immensely for supporting us and allowing us to help those who’ve attended. Every session is filled with so much fun and laughter. Project Rugby has not only improved the players’ lives but our own as well.
BBC Sport put together a video about Project Rugby featuring lots of our service users, you can view this on the BBC Sport website.
For more info on Mill Hill Rugby Club, head to their website.
April 2021 Update: We are excited that the Mill Hill Project Rugby sessions are back from Tuesday 6th April and running every Tuesday. We are also excited that Joe Healy from Mill Hill will be donating his time to put on extra Rugby sessions for our COPs members from 10th May!