Bristol Bears' leaky defence has Toby on the run
NO fan of Bristol Bears has been more concerned about the team's drop in form than 11-year-old Toby Fletcher.
So far this season the club's leaky defence has shipped more than 150 points in their first five games, leaving them one place off the foot of the Premiership Rugby table, with only Bath below them.
And for Toby this is personal - as each point conceded means another kilometre he has to run.
The Winterbourne Academy pupil and Frampton Cottrell under-12s rugby player has pledged to run 1km for each point the Bears concede this season to raise funds for St Peter's Hospice.
The staff cared for his beloved grandmother, June, until her death in February last year.
He said: "Granny loved her sport, she went to all the Bears' matches – and she was a good cook."
It's Toby's second sponsored fundraiser for St Peter's.
The Voice reported on his previous challenge, to raise £150 by running a marathon distance spread across the 12 days leading up to last Christmas.
As word of his challenge spread, money poured in and he ended up raising £3,745. It was a welcome boost to the hospice, whose income fell by £2 million last year as the pandemic forced the closure of its shops and other fundraising activities.
This season Toby set out to raise £6,000 – and was close to £5,000 as the Voice went to press. Some £2,000 of that was pledged by Harlequins supporters, perhaps feeling guilty after their team hammered Bristol 52-24 on October 8.
By then Toby, who plays at either scrum half or full back, had just run 85km in three weeks and, on the eve of the Quins game, had tweeted: "Any @BristolBears reading this, please defend well again. Anything over 20k is hard work!"
Toby's challenge is made tougher by his commitment to run the required distance before the Bears' next game.
Running to rugby training and doing 5km runs only goes so far to meeting his targets so his "impact players" - mum Claire and aunts Emma and Louise – are "lending" him kilometres, running on condition that Toby completes them himself in due course, when Bristol aren't conceding so many points.
However, in his latest tweet, he said: "If Bristol continue their form I will be running past Dundee!"
His parting message to the Bears is: "You're making me run a long way, so run some kilometres with me or defend better!"
Toby's fundraising page can be found at justgiving.com/fundraising/claire-fletcher22.