It seems pretty much as though all hands are on deck in the T&T Rugby Football Union (T&TRFU) under new president Maria Thomas, ahead of a highly-anticipated resumption of on-the-field rugby soon.
The COVID-19 pandemic had only stopped play on the field, but off-the-field, Thomas had been leading her executives, as well as all involved in the management of the sport, through the intricacies for a smooth restart.
Thomas, the first-ever female leader of the sport in T&T, has been working on capitalising on the government’s vaccinate-to-operate initiative, telling Guardian Media Sports that her union has written to the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) in answer to the request for volunteers to assist with vaccination stations around the country.
“We believe that as an organisation we can positively contribute to the health of T&T by applying ourselves where there is need. Understanding that the vaccine rollout follows a predetermined schedule, we have advised our Technical Teams that athletes seeking vaccination, which will facilitate the return to national and international fixtures, make their arrangements until further notice,” Thomas said.
It is one of many initiatives being undertaken by the current rugby executive, as the union not only continues to build on work done by the previous executive, which it believes will enable continuity but is also holding firm to safe-return procedures outlined by the Rugby Americas North (RAN) and the Sport Company of T&T.
“The Executive Committee continues to liaise with SporTT to align safe return to play for rugby with the requirements of the National Ministries and World Rugby. World Rugby Player Welfare Educator and member of Rugby Americas North (RAN) Covid-19 Working Group, Dr Dalia Jordan-Brown, has prepared a safe return to play protocol specific to T&T that adheres to both national regulations and international guidelines. We look forward to implementing the training plan for the National Teams ahead of proposed RAN tournament fixtures in the fourth quarter of 2021,” Thomas explained.
And she also noted: “In addition to establishing the infrastructure for our National Team Programmes, significant strides have been made in Union governance with the (re)establishment of the Disciplinary, Selection, Fixtures and Facilities, and Player Welfare, Safeguarding, and Anti-Doping Committees. We thank the individuals who are contributing their expertise to improving the function of the Rugby Union in these areas, and the de facto National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) – the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) for their guidance. We continue to focus on developing further committees with a focus on professional development and collaborative networking for mutually beneficial growth.”
To date, the union has selected several teams to resume preparation, namely the Men’s 15s, 7s, and U19 15s, Women’s 15s, 7s, and the Under-18 7s teams, with a seventh team, the Men’s U-18 7s, being equipped with additional coaches and managers.
The National Team Programmes were also expanded under the leadership of the Technical Directors of High Performance. Apart from having 46 per cent representation of women in key roles, an unprecedented 27 members representing six teams, are eagerly set to use virtual means to begin education compliance ahead of in-person national training sessions.
Meanwhile, the union has also launched a ‘Rugby Hub’, which is a virtual platform for meetings, training, and opportunity sharing.
Despite the short time the platform has been implemented and launched, it is already having an immediate effect. According to Thomas, they have already seen an increase in membership participation, as well as public reach through targeted webinars.
“Our social media platforms and website are being used to increase visibility and engagement throughout T&T. We invite the public to follow the T&T Rugby Football Union on Facebook & @ttrfu_868 on Instagram” she concluded.