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Inspirational Joanne Rock lifts inaugural Game Changer prize for work with cancer survivors

Big impact: Joanne Rock of Lagan Dragons is presented with her Game Changer award at last night’s Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards. She received her award from Hannah Shields and Clare McAllister, Sales and Marketing Manager Electric Ireland NI, sponsors of the category
Big impact: Joanne Rock of Lagan Dragons is presented with her Game Changer award at last night’s Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards. She received her award from Hannah Shields and Clare McAllister, Sales and Marketing Manager Electric Ireland NI, sponsors of the category
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Inspirational Ballymena woman Joanne Rock is the winner of the inaugural Game Changer award, sponsored by Electric Ireland.

Joanne is the founder of the Lagan Dragons, Northern Ireland's first ever dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors and their families.

It was a great year for the club after being named Charity of the Year and winning the Healthy Living category at the World Health Organisation Healthy City Awards.

Now Joanne can add the Game Changer accolade to that increasingly packed awards cabinet.

Joanne established the club when she discovered that exercise helped her focus on a positive mindset after her own diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.

The club can be seen most Saturdays on the River Lagan, just outside the Waterfront Hall where Joanne picked up last night's latest award.

She competed in the 2014 Dragon Boat Festival in the USA, where she experienced the benefits of coming together with other survivors in a supportive environment.

"Paddling with Team Ireland in Sarasota, I joined over 3,000 men and women who were living with and beyond a breast cancer diagnosis. It was truly an incredible experience," explained Joanne.

The next 12 months are set to be equally as exciting for the Lagan Dragons as Joanne hopes to lead the team to the 2018 Dragon Boat Festival in Florence, Italy.

The Game Changer award, a brand new addition to the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, aims to recognise an individual woman who has made a huge impact on the Northern Ireland sporting landscape in the past year, making it better and stronger for females.

Northern Ireland legend Norman Whiteside (left) presents the NI netball team with their Team of the Year Gold prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards last night. Included is sponsor Gary Sinnerton, MD The Home Design Group while
Northern Ireland legend Norman Whiteside (left) presents the NI netball team with their Team of the Year Gold prize at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards last night. Included is sponsor Gary Sinnerton, MD The Home Design Group while
Sports Awards winner Jonathan Rea talks to reporter Claire McCollum
Ruth Gorman and Tommy Bowe
Jonathan Rea
Mike Todd, Tiffany Brien and Simon Brien at the Sports Awards
Television presenter Pamela Ballantine and former Olympic champ Dame Mary Peters toast the winners
Chris Patterson, Paddy Hopkirk and Bobby Willis
NI manager Michael O’Neill, Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker, Belfast Telegraph Managing Director Richard McClean and former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings
Joanne Rock of Lagan Dragons picks up the inaugural Game Changer Award at the Waterfront Hall

Other nominees were Shirley McCay, international hockey player and Ireland's most capped sportsperson, Mary Robinson, head coach at SIKA Gymnastics, and Joanne Heasley, head coach at Portadown Netball Club.

Clare McAllister, Sales and Marketing Manager for Electric Ireland, commented: "There is certainly no shortage of women doing just that and it's true to say the four who made the shortlist have done it in a massive way."

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