Kings Cross Stellers named team of year at National Rugby Awards
- Credit: Archant
Kings Cross Steelers enjoyed an evening they will never forget at the 2019 Guinness National Rugby Awards after being crowned Male Team of the Year.
The West Ham-based club fought off competition from five other finalists for the prestigious award which was presented in a ceremony at rugby headquarters, Twickenham Stadium.
Renowned as the world's first gay and inclusive rugby team, the Steelers were recognised after continuing to break new ground both on and off the pitch in the 2018/19 season.
They have worked tirelessly at local and national level to challenge stereotypes and fight against homophobia in sport, while also helping to set up other gay and inclusive clubs across Britain.
And after also bringing over 300 new players into the sport through their unique 'Pathway to Rugby' programme, the club were delighted to be recognised for their achievements.
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"It means a lot to win this award, we are coming up to 25 years and to have this recognition for the season we've had and for the club we are means a lot," said Morgan McKinnon-Snell.
"These guys are my best friends and it's a pleasure to have the experience with them but also be at a club that has helped so many people play rugby for the first time.
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"We are the world's first inclusive rugby club, by inclusive that means we accept everyone, and following our lead there is now 80 or 90 inclusive clubs around the world."
Chris Laughton added: "We have fostered the other clubs and kind of paved the way for other clubs to join and now there's loads more clubs all around the world.
"We fostered the idea as it doesn't matter your sexuality, it doesn't matter your gender, rugby is an inclusive activity and we stand by that and to get nominated and win is ridiculous.
"It's a testament that rugby is for everyone and it doesn't matter what creed, sexuality or gender you are, rugby is a game that brings everyone together and this is evidence of that."
The Guinness National Rugby Awards were created in 2015 with the help of former England captain Chris Robshaw to celebrate the best of rugby from grassroots to the very pinnacle of the game.
Among those in attendance at the awards, which recognise clubs, players, coaches, volunteers, mini sections and many more, were guests Ollie Phillips, Alex Goode, Topsy Ojo and Nolli Waterman.
The Steelers overcame competition from fellow finalists Carlisle, Honiton, Market Harborough, Reeds Weybridge and Ross-on-Wye to win.
But as well as tasting success off the pitch, the Steelers also made their mark on it with the 1st XV holding their own in their first season in London Three Essex after achieving promotion.
Joshua Birch said: "Obviously what we do off the pitch and being who we are and our story is important, but at the end of the day we also got that award because we had an undefeated season.
"We have progressively risen through the ranks and now play at a very high standard of rugby in Essex, so what we're doing is saying this is a club for people who have never played before.
"We provide an inclusive and friendly atmosphere to start off in, but it's also for people who have played the game for a while and want to kick on and make the best of their rugby lives."
Laughton said: "I don't think we offer anything different to any other club in terms of community and family, but I think people like myself never had that elsewhere.
"We give people who never played sport before a community in sport, which a lot of people have never had so they get to experience that for the first time."
McKinnon-Snell added: "There are so many people that put so much into the club and it's great that a team like ours - or any team that plays at the level we play - is represented at these awards."
*The Guinness National Rugby Awards recognises the outstanding work done by coaches, players and supporters across the country.
There is no other event which brings together the clubs and players from all the leagues in England, from grassroots to elite. See nationalrugbyawards.co.uk.