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Sharks’ community hero wins at national rugby awards

A military veteran who uses his wartime experiences from Afghanistan to help other ex-forces personnel in Greater Manchester has picked up a national award for his work in the community.

Craig Monaghan, a coach at Sale Sharks Community Trust, collected the award for ‘Community Coach of the Year’ at this year’s Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards, which took place at the House of Commons.

He fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the Afghanistan conflict and lost eight of his colleagues in an ambush, also suffering severe injury himself. As a result of one battle in 2009, he perforated both of his eardrums and lost the majority of his hearing.

Since being medically discharged from the army in 2013, Craig was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but has gone on to lead the Trust’s Sharks Forces programme, helping hundreds of other veterans reintegrate back into society after life in the forces.

The pioneering programme offers a range of support to military veterans in Greater Manchester and the North West, helping to tackle social isolation and promoting better mental and physical wellbeing.

He also leads a separate programme called Balls To That – a mental health workshop where he shares his personal story to promote greater awareness of mental health in workplaces across the region.

Craig said: “I’m really pleased to have picked up this award and helping other people and military veterans every day gives me a reason to get up each morning.

“I think rugby really saved my life because it helped me overcome some dark times, and through Sharks Forces and Balls to That we’re trying to help lots of other people in the same way.

“We’ve already achieved so much, but we’re now looking to expand the reach of Sharks Forces in the coming months to help even more military veteran across the North West.”

Three people involved in community programmes run by Sale Sharks Community Trust were shortlisted for the national awards, including Matt Hulme – a young volunteer and Howard Coppenhall, a retired engineer who started playing rugby to keep fit and active.

Alison Warwood, Executive Director at the Trust, said: “We’re incredibly proud of Craig, Matt and Howard for getting this national recognition and obviously we’re delighted that Craig picked up the award. He deserves it for everything he has helped the Trust achieve since joining just two years ago.

“Having a military veteran like Craig in our team has allowed us to better connect with other ex-forces personnel in the region. They can relate to his experience and he can understand better than any of us how they’re feeling and the challenges they face day-to-day, whether that be re-integrating into society or looking for work outside of the forces for the first time.

“The results of the programmes speak for themselves, and the issue of veterans feeling isolated isn’t going to go away without programmes like ours to offer support and guidance.”