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NEW NETBALL UNIVERSE

WELSH RETAIL GIANTS

WELSH RETAIL GIANTS COMMIT Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” The sentiment is a powerful one, and when we see these words put into action to help others at a level beyond the call of duty, it acts as an inspiration for us to do the same at whatever level we are able. The story of how a Welsh retail giant got behind an idea to change the landscape for female opportunities through sport, in one of the UK’s most deprived communities, must definitely rank as one such inspiring moment! “When I look back at our first meeting with Gerald & Emma and dwell on what we were asking them for in order to see Rhondda Netball launch as a stand-alone charitable operation, I can't help but pinch myself,” said Lawrie through a big smile. “We'd only been going a few weeks, and while we had plenty of early success, the whole thing was little more than an idea as 36 Phil and I sat in the boardroom at Leekes HQ! Thankfully, Gerald knew my Dad from his time at Treorchy RFC (see Leekes as the 1993/94 Treorchy jersey sponsor, on page 7), so he knew there was substance behind the vision document we’d sent down to him and Emma previously. Nonetheless, a sponsorship request that ranked as one of the biggest in Welsh female sports history, still felt like a long shot!! However, it took no more than a few minutes to realise that for them, this potential partnership was about much more than a sponsorship deal. It was about making a difference in Rhondda, and giving its girls the chance to enjoy the same sporting opportunities boys in Rhondda have enjoyed for decades. They immediately saw the potential of what we had planned and their getting on board so early was key to what has already become the largest female sports participation initiative in all of Wales. It showed Gerald & Emma’s heart to truly

TO MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN RHONDDA! make a difference, and I know I speak for all of Rhondda’s girls and women when I say how appreciative we all are for their whole-hearted support and commitment. Our hope is that they will continue to play a key role beyond these first two years, because the family name and iconic Leekes brand is now synonymous with Rhondda Netball. The part they've played in our journey thus far, has been truly inspirational!” Ahead of the preparations for Year 2, Lawrie arranged for Gerald & Emma to visit Gerald’s old primary school, Cwmclydach (pictured right), and Netball Universe was honoured to be asked to accompany the visit, where we took the opportunity to ask both Gerald and Emma for a quote for this article. “Rhondda Netball is an exciting all-community cause that we are thrilled to support,” said Leekes Chairman, Gerald Leeke. “Our family and business originated in the Rhondda, and although my parents moved from Clydach Vale before I was ten years old, I am still very much a Rhondda boy at heart. So when I was shown the excellent Rhondda Netball vision document and saw the obvious popularity of netball in the community, I was eager to see what we could do to help. We’ve been delighted with the amazing progress of Rhondda Netball in such a short space of time, and we’re looking forward to seeing female sport thrive in Rhondda and RCT over the coming months and years.” Leekes Managing Director, Emma Leeke, was equally optimistic. “My Dad has always been something of a pioneer in Welsh sport," she told us, "So when I heard about Rhondda Netball and the fact that it was focused on benefitting Rhondda which is so close to his heart, I knew it would be something he’d love us to support. I’m also very passionate about seeing young girls fulfil their potential, so Rhondda Netball ticked all the boxes for us. We're looking forward to seeing even more progress in 2018!” An inspirational story that has already been a key catalyst in Rhondda Netball’s rapid rise! 33 37

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