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Rugby tournament helps tackle heart conditions

Jason Thomas, Dr Carey Edwards, Councillor Andrew Stevens, Inherited Cardiac Conditions (ICC) nurse Hayley Brown, ICC nurse Louise Norgrove, ICC nurse Suzanne Richards, and Katy Phillips, (seated) grandmother Rosamond Thomas and sister Tiffany Thomas.

A rugby tournament set up in the memory of a young rugby player, to raise funds to support patients and families affected by inherited cardiac conditions, is going from strength to strength.

The sixth annual Decky’s Memorial Touch Rugby Tournament, held at Loughor RFC, raised nearly £7,000 for the Inherited Cardiac Condition (ICC) Service in Morriston Hospital.

The tournament was set up in memory of former Loughor player Richard Thomas, nicknamed Decky, who was just 29 years old when he died of cardiomyopathy – a disease that affects heart muscle – in June 2017.

Richard’s family and friends decided to set up the tournament shortly after his passing to raise awareness of the condition. In addition to this they were keen to support the newly established ICC Service which has improved access to clinical and genetic testing, which can potentially save lives.

The latest tournament has taken the total amount raised to date to almost £40,000.

This year’s winning team was Decky Headhunters with Bucky’s Bandits winning the Bowl.

Tournament organiser and close friend, Councillor Andrew Stevens, said: “This was our sixth tournament so far, and it was a huge success once again.”

“The day itself was absolutely fantastic. The weather was a little bit overcast but that was better rugby weather to be honest.

“On the day, we raised more than £7,200 – £450 more than our biggest ever total.

“We were hoping that it would get us over the £35,000 total mark and we are thrilled to have passed £38,000.

“It shows that it’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”

The event attracted one of Wales’s most popular rugby stars.

Andrew said: “Leigh Halfpenny came along – he’s been a number of years to be fair to him.

“He’s a local boy from Gorseinon and the tournament is supported primarily from the local area with teams from Gorseinon, Loughor, Gowerton, Morriston and Falls Bay.

“It was great to also have Morgan’s Army along with us, another local charity who were really supportive of this year’s event”.

“Leigh has been a fantastic champion for the Decky fund and the ICC, giving us multiple auction prizes over the years.

“We are hoping that when he finally retires, if he ever retires, that he will be able to have a game for us as well!”

Pictured: Richard ‘Decky’ Thomas.

Richard’s brother Jason Thomas said: “Speaking on behalf of myself and my family, we can’t be more grateful for the ICC service in Morriston Hospital.

“They are already doing a fantastic job but anything we can do to help to improve the service is a big bonus in our house.”

Jason also thanks Councillor Stevens for his efforts.

He said: “Every year the day the goes great and the money raised always exceeds expectations.

“We are most thankful for the work that Andrew puts in to make the tournament so successful, every year it gets better and better.

“The legacy it’s bringing to my brother is very close to our hearts. I think it’s something that’s never going to be forgotten.”

Suzanne Richards, ICC Nurse Specialist, said: “It’s a lovely day, raising that awareness and keeping it at the forefront of people’s minds.

“You could see the community coming together. There were lots of people in attendance. It wasn’t just supported by Richard’s former rugby club, there were other clubs from the area as well as female teams.”

Suzanne said the ICC team had built up a close bond with the family over the years.

She said: “The family are so receptive and warm, they’ve welcomed us a team with open arms. They are absolutely lovely.”

Suzanne also paid tribute to Councillor Stevens’ hard work. She said: “Andrew is like a machine, raising money continuously year after year.

“And keeping the profile of Inherited Cardiac Conditions at the forefront of all the charity events he does. That awareness is there all the time.”

Consultant cardiologist Dr Carey Edwards, who leads the ICC service, said: “The amount of work Decky’s family and friends put in to raise money for the ICC really is tremendous.

“It really helps the department flourish and grow. An, more than that, they help raise the profile of inherited cardiac conditions, which is incredibly important.”

Cathy Stevens, Swansea Bay Health Charity’s Community Support Charity Officer, said: “Thank you to everyone involved in Decky’s Memorial Tournament. Once again you have smashed your fundraising efforts and the money raised allows our staff to continue to provide amazing care to all their patients.”