Project Rugby star Jack Griffin named as Learning Disability and Autism Leader for 2018

Date: 7 Jan 2019

Dimensions, one of the country’s largest not-for-profits supporting people with learning disabilities, autism, challenging behaviour and complex needs, provides person-centred support for adults with learning disabilities and autism, right across the country.

Each year they announce a Leaders’ List that celebrates their achievements across national advocacy, changing communities, sport, art and entertainment, work and education. This year the winners were selected from nearly 600 nominees by a panel of expert judges.

Jack Griffin is 21-years-old and has Down’s syndrome and autism. He was born with a hole in his heart and needed major surgery to repair his heart at just three-months-old.

In and out of hospital for the first three years of his life, he had further major surgery a year later and has had other surgeries since. Jack still has ongoing health conditions, yet despite this, he has always been determined to be active and has developed a passion for watching and taking part in sports.

The young sportsman is now a sports fanatic, he keeps fit at his college gym and has a natural talent to do well in any sport he plays. His favourite sports are American football, basketball, football and, his true passion, rugby.

Jack developed a real love of rugby – especially the tackling and scrums. He was never able to play rugby during his school years, so when the Wasps rugby team began training sessions at his local rugby club, Jack was very excited.

Jack has found confidence in playing rugby.

As someone who finds it difficult to attend new activities, Jack was anxious at first, but he worked really hard at each session and over time developed his rugby skills and increased in confidence. He put so much effort into the training sessions and he even felt able to help some of the new players.

Project Rugby

When Wasps asked Jack to be part of Project Rugby, a joint initiative between Premiership Rugby and England Rugby designed to increase participation in the game in underrepresented groups, he was excited to be a part of it.

Jack has a severe speech and language delay and disorder, and he lacks confidence with communication, yet he was able to overcome this and allowed himself to be filmed for the project.

The film was shown on Premiership Rugby’s website and social media channels. There was also a poster advertising the project, which was displayed locally.

Wendy Wragg, Jack’s mum, said: “I am so proud of what Jack has been able to achieve. He has managed to overcome his difficulties and be part of something which has not only benefited him but has also encouraged so many others to take part in the game of rugby.”

Jordan Young, Wasps Community Development Officer, said: “Jack was very shy when we first met him, but every time he comes along to a Project Rugby session he seems more confident – and his communication has improved immensely.

“He’s the hardest worker we’ve seen and his energy and enthusiasm for the game is so infectious. When he comes to a session it’s uplifting and provides an extra bit of motivation for everyone.

“I think everyone can see that Jack is the Project Rugby champion at the Old Leamingtonians site and hopefully will be a star pupil for years to come.”

Asked what it feels like to be a Leaders’ List winner, Jack said: “I am very happy and feel like a champion!”

Jack is now part of a mixed ability rugby team supported by Wasps Community coaches and Old Leamingtonians Rugby Club, called the Hornets.

He continues to take part in the rugby sessions and in his words ‘likes taking people down’!