Clare Balding CBE will end her term as RFL President by nominating Wales Rugby League chief medical officer and men’s team doctor, Dr Richard Lawrance for a President’s Award.
The RFL President’s Award was introduced in 2019 to recognise inspiring work to change lives and communities through Rugby League, and achievements of players, coaches and volunteers.
Dr Richard Lawrance has devoted countless hours and travelled thousands of miles to deliver a cardiac screening programme to Rugby League players and clubs, and also to other sports.
He has been involved in the sport for two decades, serving Warrington Wolves, North Wales Crusaders and Keighley Cougars as club doctor, and also working for Wales Rugby League at the last three men’s World Cups, and was appointed our Chief Medical Officer in 2020.
But it is the leading role he has played over the last year in allowing the RFL to set up a central cardiac screening programme across the professional game for which the whole sport owes him gratitude.
He has managed the whole programme, making appointments at the convenience of players and clubs.
Over the last 12 months, Richard has carried out screening for 29 clubs on 1054 Rugby League players or others involved in the sport – plus another 169 screenings for FA Wales, York City FC and Basketball England – all during time off from his day job as NHS Consultant Cardiologist at Airedale General Hospital, until he left at the end of the summer.
His positive contribution does not end there, as Richard’s only condition was that monies that would otherwise be charged for the screenings should be invested in the sport’s cardiac screening programme – for example the cost of follow-up cardiac investigations, or purchasing equipment. So far that has raised more than £40,000, enabling the purchase of an Echo Ultrasound much earlier than anticipated.
WRL chairman Brian Juliff said: “Congratulations to Richard on a hard-earned and well-deserved Presidents Award from the Rugby Football League. Richard has been our mainstay at Wales Rugby League and his medical knowledge, guidance and advice has been invaluable as has been his enthusiasm for the team, the game and his unparalleled commitment to supporting everyone around him.”
Clare Balding said: “One of the many pleasures of my time as RFL President has been to discover the outstanding work done behind the scenes to support the sport by people like Dr Richard Lawrance and Tracy Herd – so I am delighted they will be added to the very select group who have received RFL President’s Awards.
“The players on the pitch will always take the majority of the accolades, but it is right that we have the opportunity to recognise the crucial contributions made by off-field heroes.
“Doctors such as Richard Lawrance fall firmly into that category, and the work he has done to support the cardiac screening programme in Rugby League – which is so important for players at all levels – has been truly inspirational.”
Richard is one of two people to be honoured by Clare Balding, the other being Tracy Herd, the Director, Global Programme Implementation, for the men’s health charity Movember, which since 2015 has forged increasingly strong links with the sport of Rugby League through RL Cares and the Ahead of the Game campaign.
The awards will be presented when the President’s Ball returns to the Queens Hotel in Leeds on January 14, after a three-year Covid-enforced absence – when Clare Balding will officially hand her chains of office to her successor, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.