A GIRLS rugby pioneer who was named as the BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero for the West said it is ‘a dream come true’.

Gareth Waterfield, from Burnham-on-Sea, started a girls rugby team in Winscombe in 2012 as there was demand from female pupils at Hugh Sexeys Middle School.

He approached Mike Williamson, former chairman of Winscombe junior rugby, to ask if he could set up an all-female team.

“He fully supported me in the set up of the girls team and to this day the whole club are still behind me and have been absolutely fantastic,” Gareth said.

The dedicated coach, who was born profoundly deaf, has seen the club, which now has more than 100 players, continue to grow over the last five years.

He wears a cochlear implant which gives him partial hearing so he can coach the girls which he says is ‘a pleasure’.

“We started five seasons ago in 2012 with a small girls team of about 16 players at under 15’s,” Gareth said.

“Now, the girl/ladies section has over 100 players enjoying their rugby and with three very successful junior teams at under 13’s, under 15’s, under 18’s and a fantastic ladies side which only started this season.

“Considering Winscombe is a very small village with a population of only 5,000, I think this club is a great success, the girls who come are just fantastic.”

Gareth was nominated for the award by one of the girls’ parents, John Podpadec and said he was ‘in shock’ when he found out he had won.

“To win the BBC West Unsung Hero Award, I was absolutely speechless as it has always been my dream to be able to go to sports personality awards evening along with all the worlds best sporting stars.

“I am so excited and cannot wait to go.”

Gareth said he hopes the club will continue to go from strength to strength and said five of his players are in the England talent development group.

A number of girls from the club have represented the Somerset under 15’s and 18’s county squad over the years as well as the South West Divisional Squad

“I am very passionate about growing the game for the girls as I want people to see that girls can play rugby and play it successfully and are just as good and sometimes even better than their male counterparts,” Gareth said.

“It is great to see them getting the same opportunities as boys and seeing both girls and ladies rugby growing in popularity across the country.

“I am looking forward to the future.”