THE hand blisters have been worth it as a fitness coach raised more than £10,000 for the rugby club he started out at.

Tommy Matthews (37), of Slaley, decided to row continuously on his indoor rowing machine for three hours at the weekend to raise money for Tynedale Rugby Club, based in Corbridge.

A father of two young boys, Tommy wanted to undertake the challenging fund-raising challenge to support the club where he developed his love of the rugby as a junior during its struggles during the coronavirus pandemic.

The club issued a plea for help as it was set to lose out on its main income source with the various events, such as Tynedale Beer Festival and Corbridge Festival, held there annually being cancelled over the summer months.

Tommy was joined in the challenge by Tynedale's current head coach Ben Woods and coach Mark Tampin, the trio's progress being live streamed to well wishers via popular video conferencing site, Zoom.

To date, the trio have raised £12,000.

Tommy, a managing director at fitness company BMF, said: "When I say the club's appeal, I donated myself but I thought there must be more we could do.

"I was on my rowing machine doing my daily exercise and there's a saying at Tynedale of 'Into the river' because of a shout from one of the spectators, so my thinking was to row into the river.

"I knew it was going to be difficult as I've never done more than an hour on the machine. I contacted the club and Ben and Tamps said they would join in as much as they could but they hadn't done more than half an hour.

"I didn't expect it to go so well and the video had more than 10,000 views so it's not just the money which has been raised, but also the club's profile.

"The club is a huge part of the community and I had my early years playing there, and it's all about what it does for everybody else.

"My boys are five and six and I hope they will soon get to experience that sense of belonging and community that I did."

Tommy was pleased to have all but recovered from the epic row within 24 hours, although the hand blisters remained well into the week.

Anyone wishing to donate to Tommy's cause should visit