Ballymena Rugby Club’s outstanding efforts within the Ballymena community saw them named winners of the Participation award.
While many people who don’t follow rugby closely might not see beyond the First XV, the club fielded five adult teams last year as well as having a thriving mini rugby section - one of the biggest in Ulster - featuring 265 registered players, an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year.
Ballymena RFC also has an extensive youth section, while the Bears team - which offers Tag Rugby to children with learning disabilities - also increased its membership.
The club has also seen an increase in its community rugby initiatives for boys and girls and also for children belonging to ethnic minorities.
Away from the oval ball game, the club has continued to engage with all sections of the community to encourage people of all ages to take part in some form of physical activity.
One of these is the formation of a Walking Group, primarily aimed at members over 50 years of age, who would like to engage in some gentle walking and rambling.
“Our youngest person in the club is five years old, right up to someone of 78 in the walking group,” explained club chairman Tom Wiggins.
“It has been great to see the club grow and grow in recent years.
“We couldn’t do it without volunteers and without people giving up their time.”
With regard to the club’s involvement within the community, Tom said: “I think it’s the future for all clubs, not just rugby clubs.
“Community is the way forward - the days of big money being involved are gone.
“Clubs now realise it’s about getting young people involved and the people within your community,” added Tom.
Also short-listed: Ballymena Hockey Club; Ballymena Runners.