Bath Rugby Foundation’s Todd Burge was one of the stars of the show at the star-studded Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards, claiming one of the top prizes on offer.
The PLAY Achiever of the Year Award, supported by Sporting Equals, recognises those who have broken down physical, cultural or social hurdles to become involved in the game whilst embodying the spirit of Premiership Rugby’s PLAY campaign.
Todd was selected for the gong after transforming his life through playing rugby. After some very difficult times in his life, having been bullied and taken away from his family, Todd joined Bath’s Urban Rugby Squad and he has transformed his life and has learnt that his disability and background make no difference when he is on the pitch.
He is now a member of Stothert & Pitt RFC and will captain Bath’s first ever mixed ability rugby team.
“It felt amazing to win the award. I was a little bit scared on the stage but happy at the same time,” said Todd, who beat fellow nominees Leo Gradwell-Spencer from Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors’ Emma Henighan to the award at the House of Commons on Tuesday.
“I can now teach people and help them improve and hopefully they could be winning awards in the future. Rugby has helped me make new friends, has given me more confidence and helped me release my anger when I used to get bullied.”
Every year hundreds of people up and down the country give their time to help run Premiership Rugby initiatives such as – but not limited to – Aviva Tackling Numbers, HITZ, On The Front Foot, Rugby 4 All, Something To Chew On, Move Like A Pro, and Urban Rugby Squad.
From going the extra mile to help youngsters in the local area, to helping more girls and women get into the game, these ground-breaking schemes all seek to help the community reach new heights both on and off the rugby pitch.
And Comic Relief account manager Lisa Bedding, who was a panelist for the award, paid homage to Todd’s incredible achievement through the Urban Rugby Squad.
She said: “I think Todd genuinely deserved to win this award for how much he has overcome in his life. He was taken into another family at a young age and has also been bullied as he has special educational needs.
“But since joining the Urban Rugby Squad in Bath he has completely transformed into a different person who is a role model for what people can achieve. It gave him such a confidence boost to play rugby and raised his self-esteem, it is a great story.
“This was an incredible award to judge and all the entrants deserve a huge amount of praise for what they have achieved. The barriers every single person has had to overcome has been inspiring.”
Wera Hobhouse, the MP for Bath, added: “I’m a big fan of Bath Rugby, so to hear that Todd Burge has been rewarded for his achievements and dedication to the Bath Rugby Foundation was really pleasing.
“He clearly plays a huge role in ensuring others who are not so fortunate have the opportunity to participate and excel in the sport of rugby union – just as he has. Well done, Todd!”
Bath Rugby Foundation had four nominees in the event and were able to send all four to London thanks to train tickets donated by Great Western Railway.