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Dowson shortlisted for Aviva Community Player of the Season

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Despite another busy year on the field for the England back row, Dowson has contributed to a variety of local and national projects, going above and beyond the call of duty and supporting a number of causes - in particular Grace's Fund.

While on a visit to Northampton, his mother saw Grace's Fund bucket shaking in a local supermarket. After speaking to them, she told Dowson the story and then he got in touch with Grace's family volunteering his help, not just in additional fundraising opportunities but in raising the public profile of the cause.

Dowson, along with Chris Ashton, visited Grace and her family, a meeting which received considerable coverage in the Northampton media. A bucket shake at Franklin's Gardens raised nearly £3,000, and Dowson collected items of signed memorabilia from the Saints squad for Grace's Fund to auction to raise further funds.

Grace has now visited the USA for the operation and is making a great deal of progress in her subsequent therapy.

Helen Windram, founder of Grace's Fund, paid tribute to Dowson's efforts and also the knock on effect they have had.

"Working with Phil before Christmas was tremendous and it was great to meet both him and Chris Ashton," she said.

"Obviously the money which was raised on the Christmas Eve match helped in our effort to take Grace to the United States for her surgery, but having Phil associated with the Fund has also helped tremendously in terms of profile.

"I hope Phil and the team know that their input has made a life changing difference in Grace's future and for that we are so very grateful.

"He is a credit both to the Saints and to rugby as a whole."

Dowson's dedication and involvement with Grace's Fund came as no surprise to those at the club.

"Getting involved with Grace's Fund is typical of Phil's attitude and his character," added Sian Haynes, head of community at the Saints.

"Phil's profile as a senior Saints player understandably ensured that the Christmas fundraising efforts received plenty of coverage in the local press.

"He has stayed in touch with the family since that initial contact, and hopefully the additional profile he has now from becoming a full England international will help Grace's Fund continue raising the funds needed for the long rehabilitation of what is a special little girl."

Three other players join Dowson on the shortlist - Newcastle Falcons captain James Hudson, Saracens' Will Fraser and retiring London Irish lock Bob Casey - with the award due to be handed out the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards at The London Hilton, on Park Lane, on May 8th.

"This quartet are an impressive, selfless group of men who have put others before themselves and I am delighted to see their efforts have led to them making his shortlist," said Wayne Morris Premiership Rugby's Head of Community.

"Within Premiership Rugby the Aviva Community Player of the Year is one of the most prized awards as it proves our commitment to the community and gives other players role models to inspire and enthuse them."

The shortlist was selected by a panel of media professionals - Jill Douglas (Freelance), Miles Harrison (Sky Sports), Alastair Eykyn (5Live), Mick Cleary (Daily Telegraph), Ian Stafford (Mail on Sunday), Nick Mullins (ESPN), David Rogers (Getty Images), Alan Pearey (Rugby World). They were joined by Corin Palmer (Premiership Rugby's Head of Academies and Development) and Paul Morgan (Premiership Rugby's Communication Director) who chaired the panel.

"Each season, Premiership Rugby and its clubs invest more than £3million in a variety of community programmes which aim to grow grass roots participation and tackle core social issues," Morris added.

"In the last year alone, Premiership Rugby clubs delivered 150,000 man-hours of community programming to over 250,000 participants.

"The commitment of players like Bob, James, Phil and Will have been crucial to achieving our goals. Picking one of those committed players as the recipient of the award will be a very tough job as each of them would be a worthy winner."

Louisa Cheetham, Senior Sponsorship & Communications Manager at Aviva added: "At Aviva we take our commitment to work in the community very seriously so we are delighted to be involved in this award.

"The shortlist demonstrates the profile of this award and the players involved have proved themselves over a long period. Picking the winner is going to be a tough decision as each one is so deserving of recognition of this award."


Will FRASER (Saracens)

James HUDSON (Newcastle Falcons)

Bob CASEY (London Irish)

Phil DOWSON (Northampton Saints)

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