Ashton Mason-Benn and the Avondale Junior Rugby Club is a perfect example of the benefits associated with playing rugby and fostering an inclusive environment.
Ashton was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s at a young age and was told that he wouldn’t be able to cope with playing team sports. But at the age of seven, Ashton decided to take up rugby with the Avondale Wombats, and 10 seasons later, he has been able to further develop his passion for rugby at the Illawarra Sports High School as well as in the Illawarra Academy of Sport.
“Joining the Wombats, I had great help and support from my Coach Paul Tausala and Didi Tausala and my teammates who never gave up on me and always encouraged and supported me to keep going,” says Ashton.
Ashton is one of the players in this year's Edstart Rugby Scholarship Program which aims to get more kids involved in playing rugby and help develop rugby's next generation.
This is the second year that education payment provider Edstart has run their Rugby Scholarship Program and CEO Jack Stevens explains that after the disruptions to the 2020 season, it was important to be able to help get kids back onto the rugby field.
“We were thrilled with the volume of exceptional applications we received, which made it a challenging task in selecting our scholarship players this year," Stevens said.
"We're proud to be supporting such a diverse range of rugby players by helping fund their registration and equipment costs, and it's also great to see so many rising stars in our scholarship program."
One talented rising star is Margaret McConnachie, who started playing rugby 4 years ago for the SCU Marlins Rugby in Coffs Harbour. This year Margaret is focused on being selected for representative teams with future aspirations to play rugby at the elite level.
"This scholarship means a lot to me to know that people are out there supporting the next generation of rugby and will push me to keep striving for my dreams," Margaret said.
This year's Edstart Rugby Scholarship Program includes players from Clovelly Eagles, Northlakes Junior Rugby Club, Wanderers Junior Rugby Club, Southern Beaches Rugby Club, Abbotsleigh Rugby, Lismore City Rugby Club, Avondale Junior Rugby Club, South East Magic, Harbord Harlequins, Maitland Blacks, Newport Breakers, Hunters Hill Rugby Club, Warnervale Wildcats, Orange Emus, Marlins Rugby Club, Moree Junior Rugby Club, Rockdale Rugby Union Club, Inverell Highlanders, Hay Cutters Rugby Union Club and the Scone Junior Rugby Club.