"SOMETIMES the wrong step is the last one," reflects Newport's Wes Cunliffe. Now the winger hopes rugby can help turn around the lives of others in his home city.

The 31-year-old grew up in Duffryn and Pill, frequently getting in trouble with the law.

Cunliffe was fortunate – he was introduced by police officers to rugby and has since gone on to run in tries galore with Ebbw Vale and Newport, while next season he will play for Cross Keys.

Not only that, the winger has represented Jamaica at sevens; Cunliffe says that the sport was his salvation.

"Let's just say I had a lot of energy," he said. "I got involved in things that I shouldn't have done and went into certain places that I shouldn't have been.

"Through those experiences I have lost friends along the way through drugs, alcohol, car collisions, all people who I am sure would have been great additions to this world despite it all.

"I think of them all the time and it puts things into perspective. Unfortunately, sometimes the wrong step is the last one. Luckily I am not that person, thank God I found rugby."

That came after Cunliffe, aged 15, was encouraged to head to St Joseph's Rugby Club in the city.

"I'm really grateful to the police officers in Duffryn at the time," he said. "They understood our background and what we were going through and tried to show us there was more to life than the way we were heading, which was basically a young offenders institution.

"One officer, Darren Morgan, introduced me to St Joseph's. Mike Dawkins was my first coach there and I'm so grateful to those individuals along with many others such as Paul Evans at Newport Saracens, Mike Sage and others at Newport Youth, Chris Day who is now a Newbridge coach, Jason Strange, Neil Edwards, Jonathan Jones and the supporters at Ebbw Vale, Craig Warlow and Mark Workman at Newport.

"I hated sport before joining St Joes but I haven't looked back since and to be part of the Jamaica squad has taken my journey to another level, it's incredible really."

Now Cunliffe is hoping to provide guidance for younger versions of himself who are finding life hard in the city.

The winger was invited by Edwards to help out with the School of Hard Knocks, a charity that aims to use rugby to help tackle unemployment, crime and poor health

He helped with a training session at Pill Harriers RFC and then offered some pearls of wisdom to participants.

"I have been in their shoes, I know exactly what it is like to be part of the system, I know how much off a hole you can get into as well," said Cunliffe, who now lives in Caldicot with his partner Rhiannon and her two sons Tyrell and Tyrone plus their five-year-old Isaiah.

"I was once in their shoes but hopefully they can be in mine in the near future.

"I am trying to get the message across that there are people out there that do care about them.

"Maybe I can relate to them a little bit more but from their efforts today, I think they want to make a change and I can see myself in them.

"It was rugby that got me out of that. I had the blessing of meeting coaches who helped me along the way and gave their time to help me on and off the field. That makes you have faith in people again."

"Wes is another incredible story of someone who has turned their life around through rugby," said Ken Cowen, chief executive of School of Hard Knocks.

"He is an inspiration to our staff and participants. We are delighted that Neil Edwards, who played a part in Wes' story, is now part of our full-time team, changing lives through rugby every day in Wales and across the UK."