Wests coach Craig Robberds has teamed up with Australian sevens captain Jesse Parahi to help boost the launch of Canberra's new rugby union program Sense Rugby.
The program provides kids with learning disabilities an opportunity to participate in a weekly training session where they can gain confidence, make friends and learn the skills of rugby union.
It's a cause close to Robberds' heart after he lost his daughter Gabby to cerebral palsy when she was only two-years-old.
After witnessing the impact occupational and physiotherapy had on her health, his family partnered with the University of Canberra and created the Gabby Robberds Scholarship in 2012. Students from UC's Faculty of Occupational Therapy will help Robberds run the inaugural program in Canberra.
"I'm trying to keep it up after what happened for all the other kids who are struggling to fit in and have learning disabilities," Robberds said.
"It's a fulfilling project to be involved in and it's rewarding because most of them really struggle with anxiety and other problems that they have at home.
"A lot of them are isolated so Sense Rugby gives them the opportunity to work together in a group and form bonds with other kids who have similar abilities. It's good to see them interacting and kicking around the footy."
The program was founded by Parahi and his wife Carlien, who is an experienced Paediatric Occupational Therapist.
Carlien had been working with a group of older kids and was struggling to help them connect and integrate. So, she brought in some tackle bags and head shields, gave them lessons and the rest is history.
Sense Rugby has grown immensely since its launch in 2015 and now exists in 18 locations across Australia. Parahi and Robberds will launch Canberra-based program at Weetangera Oval, on Sunday June 23.
Robberds hopes to integrate the program at specialist schools such as Malkara and Black Mountain School who run care programs for kids with disabilities.
Sense Rugby are also hoping to run weekly disability specific games for children who aren't at specialist schools on Wednesday or Friday afternoons from term three.
Robberds has already received positive feedback from parents who's children have been excluded from local sport.
"Once they get to a certain age they feel like they don't fit in and they just quit," Robberds said. "Sense Rugby gives them an opportunity to return to a level they can participate in and have fun at."
Meanwhile Robberds' Western Districts side are looking to secure their second win of the season in the John I Dent Cup.
The Lions will take on second-placed Canberra Royals, who are coming off a shock loss to the Tuggeranong Vikings.
"We've had a good hustle to get the lead but then teams have come over the top of us or we've let it slip at the last minute," Robberds said. "It's been a frustrating season to date but hopefully we can turn it around on and play a full game, come away with a win and a good finish."