A mid Wales club has made mental health a key priority as we ease back to clubhouses and pitches.

Welshpool RFC has launched a series of initiatives led by club volunteers in conjunction with local charities and professional services to provide club members and the wider community with support and someone to talk to as and when they need it.

Chairman and first team coach Dave Roberts said: “The pandemic forced us all to think a bit differently about the needs of our members and we wanted to support them mentally as well as physically.

“We are a rugby family and rugby will always be our priority but if we want to truly be the heart of our community, we need to do more than rugby.”

In partnership with local mental health charity Ponthafren Association, the club has set up a Walking Rugby group – ‘Walk & Talk Rugby’ – starting next week which will be open to the whole community, and the clubhouse will also now open two evenings a week specifically to allow members and young people to pop in if they feel they need to chat to someone.

“One of our key aims this year is to engage with our wider community and the Walking Rugby group will allow former players like myself to stay actively involved with the rugby club, along with people who’ve never played rugby before but would like to join a social group and get a bit of exercise at the same time.

“By taking the time to talk to our volunteers about the roles they’d like to carry out, our treasurer Donna Lewis came forward to drive this project. She is currently going through mental health first aid training and is going to be at the club two evenings a week once restrictions allow.

"The first will be an informal drop-in opportunity for anyone who wants to have a cup of coffee and chat, Donna will be able to refer them to Ponthafren or other professional services if appropriate.

“The second is for the young people of the town and area. The Youth Centre closed so we’re going to open one evening a week as a safe space for young people to chat and offer support in conjunction with Powys Together through their local officer Gwen Evans.

“It’s very early days but we are very excited by the impact this project could have. Already, three people have come forward this week and we’ve been able to refer them to professional services.

"We’re not experts in mental health but if we can use our position within the community to bridge a gap and make a difference to even a few people, this could be a really meaningful addition to our club.

"We are very lucky to have someone like Donna and it’s also key to work with professional services such as Ponthafren to ensure the provision is sustainable.”

Like clubs around Wales, Welshpool players are showing their enthusiasm to come back to the game.

“All our teams are back training now and numbers are up pretty much across the board, especially within our female and junior sections. We’re hoping the Walking Rugby will be a great addition to our teams.”

For more info contact Donna Lewis, Welshpool’s mental health advocate on pl.wrfc@gmail.com or go to www.ponthafren.org.uk.