The Welsh rugby squad won praise from charity fundraisers in New Zealand yesterday after dipping into their own pockets to help a local cause. They handed over $NZ1800 collected amongst themselves in a light hearted fines system imposed for small misdemeanors.
Players or coaches who wore the wrong strip for team training or turned up late for any meeting faced tough fines from the tour watchdog, hooker Matthew Rees. He quickly collected a pot of cash which the players decided they wanted to go to a good cause. They were then told about the MSSAT Waikato Trust which gives vital help to male victims of sexual abuse.
Charity boss Mike Holloway met the squad at a Waikato Stadium on the eve of test training session where the cash was handed over. He said: “This is a magnificent gesture by the boys and every dollar will be used to help young men and boys who are in urgent need. Our charity focuses on a very difficult subject so having the support of the Welsh squad will help young victims find the confidence to come forward. “This is a substantial donation for us and I am full of respect for their decision to give us this direct help.”
The money was presented to Mr Holloway pitchside by Wales captain Ryan Jones as the rest of the squad looked on. He said: “We’ve had some fun collecting the cash through this light hearted fines system and we all decided it had to go to a deserving cause. As soon as we were told about the great work MSSAT does in the community we unanimously decided to help.”
The squad took time out to present the money at their eve of match Captain’s Run training session on the pitch where the test match will be played. Coach Warren Gatland said: “Some of the boys were a bit quiet earlier in the week after last Saturday but we’ve been through a transition and we’ve had a good run out this morning. Some of the players felt they weren’t at their best last week and they want to rectify that.”
Gatland was speaking in his New Zealand hometown and praised the welcome the Welsh squad has received. He said: “I don’t think anyone has said a negative word and the encouragement we have had as just been fantastic not just in Hamilton but in Wellington and Dunedin as well.”