A SWINDON rugby player was front and centre of a trailblazing annual tournament to raise money for vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Louise Gray, a 39-year-old managing director, is an avid member and supporter of UK charity Wooden Spoon and played for the South West and Wessex at their Vets Fest 22 event this weekend.

The tournament, held at Birmingham’s Moseley Rugby Football Club, celebrated its second year and featured over 700 players from 16 men’s and 10 women’s Vets teams across the country.

And with rugby playing such an important role in her own life, Gray was delighted to give back to the community throughout a fun-filled day of action.

Louise, who was greeted by The Princess Royal on a day of rugby celebration, said: “I think days like today are great because they are all about rugby raising money for kids, a lot of us know about Maddy Lawrence and what happened and it’s just really important that we all club together as teams.

“We do do that, the rugby family is one little family across the world, I would say, and we raise a lot of money, we don’t mind spending it and we get to have a good time as well and catch up with old friends, so it is perfect.”

Since 1983, Wooden Spoon have funded more than 1,300 projects, across the UK and Ireland, totalling over £29 million.

The winning teams won the Olly Stephens and Maddy Lawrence Memorial Cups to commemorate the lives of two young rugby players.

And Louise was proud to honour their memory and continue their legacy as part of the charity.

She said “I think it does feel like we’re continuing their legacy yeah.

“For such young people to pass, it is a shame, but actually compared to football, we look after our players so much more.

“Once something happens we start change straight away, so today celebrating them and knowing that in future we have to do better as people and as rugby players so I think it is amazing what we are doing today.”

Louise competed against fellow veterans throughout the day and was greeted by HRH, The Princess Royal, who attended an afternoon reception to meet people involved in the event and watch some of the games.

She added: “I run a charity sevens team and we’re all from roughly the same area, so to be able to catch up with old friends.

“It’s raising money and now I have retired from playing rugby, it is really fun to put on my boots once a year.

“It’s been really fun because we’re spread across South West and Wessex, so we’re quite a vast region, we’re all having great craic.

“It’s an honour to represent your region, catch up with old friends, meet new people and just have a great time generally.”

Register for next year’s Vets Fest event at: woodenspoon.org.uk/wooden-spoon-vets-fest-2023