Every year ActiveQuote call on staff to put forward sponsorship nominations, and 2022 was no exception. We received a lot of nominations that ran from local charities to local self-funded clubs, but the one chosen was one nominated by Jess Garland.
The nomination was sponsorship for her husband Rhodri, who was looking to try out and hopefully get chosen for the Welsh Rugby Deaf 7’s team, who are due to travel out to Argentina at the end of this month.
The great news is that he did try out and was chosen to represent his country and is due to travel to Argentina on the 31st of March. This is an incredible achievement and one that Rhodri is so proud of, and we are equally proud to have been able to sponsor him to help make it possible. Along with other sponsors, Rhodri managed to raise the £1,600.00 required as the sport is not fully funded. This money helped fund the flights, transfers, accommodation, and team kit.
Rhodri is thankful to all those who have sponsored him and although it was his pure talent and passion for the game that ultimately got him through, he is also aware that without the funding, this trip would not have been possible.
So, who is Rhodri and how did this all start?
Rhodri is 29 and is a valleys boy through and through and someone who has always loved rugby. He is a husband to Jess, and dad to Wyatt and Addy, and while working full time at Travis Perkins where he is a manager, he still finds time to train and play rugby at a few different levels.
Rhodri added “Jess is incredibly supportive of me and my rugby, and on this occasion is unable to join me in Argentina, but with the trip fully sponsored, it does mean that we will have a family holiday this year, which is important.”
Rhodri currently plays for the Rhondda Outlaws, which is a Rugby League team and where last year he won Player of the year and has received several caps playing for Wales. One playing for the Dragon Hearts, two playing for east Wales and five playing for west Wales. I mean come on, what little boy doesn’t grow up wanting to represent his country and wear those three Welsh feathers on their shirt in a sport they love?! Well, Rhodri has done just that. I’ve also discovered that he is also a DJ and recently played at the inside out festival in Cardiff. Rhodri didn’t tell me this during our catch-up, but on scrolling through his Instagram account I found a post promoting it. Clearly a man of many talents and one who is not afraid to do what he loves, no matter the circumstances.
I then went on to ask Rhodri how covid affected his training, if indeed it did?
“Yes, it did, however, I’m lucky enough to have a rugby pitch behind my house which is accessible by a short walk to the end of the road I live on, and while socialising was not allowed, I took myself off to the field and trained by myself. When the rules were eased slightly, a friend and rugby teammate of mine and I would meet up and train together.” He added “I would also take my weights with me and use them to ensure my fitness was being maintained.”
What is Wales Deaf Rugby?
Well, we are going to be honest with you here and say that until Jess put forward her nomination, we didn’t know either, and up until early 2019 neither did Rhodri. It was only when Rhodri was approached by a work colleague who knew he wore hearing aids that he asked why he had not tried out for the Welsh deaf team. Armed with this new knowledge of such a team, that’s exactly what Rhodri did.
Deaf rugby is played across the world, with Wales, England and New Zealand sitting at the top of the international standings.
While the game’s fanbase is growing, there are still many myths about the sport. Players are regularly asked questions such as ‘does the game have to be completely silent?’ or ‘how do you know when the referee has blown the whistle?’, which were the exact questions I asked Rhodri myself.
Rhodri confirmed; “In answer to your questions, no, the game is not played in silence and is still as loud as any other rugby game. While players do not wear their hearing aids because they're not allowed to, all players know the sign for certain instructions, and with every player as passionate as the next, they make themselves heard very well. As for the referee and the whistle. Just like any other game of rugby, as well as blowing the whistle when needed, the ref will also use the arm signals to demonstrate a call.”
Not everyone is completely deaf
The worldwide measure for deaf rugby is a loss of at least 40 decibels, although some countries allow players with less hearing loss than this for non-competitive fixtures.
There are varying levels of deafness with varying reasons and medical conditions. Some have progressive hearing loss, and some have been deaf their whole life.
Rhodri’s hearing loss has been progressive over the years, and he currently wears two hearing aids. He is also due to have a consultation to discuss the possibility of a skin graft that will hopefully delay the continued deterioration in one ear.
More about the upcoming World Cup competition
The 2023 World Deaf Rugby Sevens World Cup is being staged in Cordoba, Argentina 5–9 April 2023, hosted by Union Rugby Sordos Argentina. It promises to be a landmark event, surpassing all previous international Deaf rugby tournaments in size, quality, and diversity.
Up to 10 Men’s Sevens teams and 6 Women’s Sevens teams are likely to participate, including teams from Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, Ghana, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, and Wales.
Flying from London, to Madrid, and then on to Argentina from there, both the men's and women's teams will be taking on the other competing countries in the hope of coming away champions. The first three days will be training days and in general acclimatising to their new surroundings, with the rest of the time competing in the competition itself.
The sport has been featured on Scrum 5, and S4C are accompanying the Welsh team on their trip to Argentina and making a documentary. The games will also be screamed live for all to enjoy.
You can follow Rhodri and his rugby journey by following him on Instagram. Simply search for rhodri.garland. You can also check out walesdeafrugby.co.uk for more information.
So, to finish off, everyone here at ActiveQuote would like to wish Rhodri, and all the other players representing Wales in Argentina all the very best.
Be sure to hold your head high when walking onto that pitch and sing the Welsh national anthem like we know you can, with passion and pride.
Enjoy the experience for what it is and know that we are very proud to be supporting you in what is an incredible opportunity and adventure.