The coach who signed Danny Jones for Keighley Cougars has spoken of his “shock” after the player tragically died while playing for the club on Sunday.
The world of rugby league was stunned when Wales half-back Jones - aged just 29 - passed away after suffering a suspected cardiac arrest at their League 1 away game against London Skolars.
He was hurt early in the match, collapsed after being taken off, was treated by the match doctor and paramedics at the ground but died later in London’s Royal Free Hospital.
Halifax-born Jones, who leaves a wife and five-month old twins, played more than 150 games for Keighley in two spells with the West Yorkshire club.
Barry Eaton, the current Hunslet Hawks coach, first recruited Jones from Halifax for Keighley ahead of the 2008 season.
“I am just shocked,” he said.
“Me and my wife are still struggling to come to terms with it ourselves.
“We are absolutely gutted but can only imagine what his wife Liz is going through right now and all our thoughts are with her and their family.
“I’ve not coached Jonesy for a couple of years but our families are very close; my wife did Liz’s hair on their wedding day and it was only three weeks ago when we were over in Halifax for the christening of their five-month-old twins.”
Jones, who played in Super League with Halifax and featured in the 2013 World Cup, was a prolific points scorer.
Eaton said: “He was a terrific player.
“I signed him as a Keighley Cougars player and I’ve made a couple of attempts to sign him since.
“I came very close to doing so in the off-season with Hunslet but he’s made some fantastic friends at Keighley and his loyalty was with them.
“I had a lot of time for Jonesy as a player but also as a genuine friends.
“We had the same sort of bond as mates just like our wives do as close friends too.
“It’s horrible news and just so sad.”
Shirts and messages have been pinned to the gates of Cougar Park since the news broke.
A club statement from Keighley said: “Danny was much loved and highly respected by all at the club and in rugby league.
“He was the life and soul in the dressing room, a natural leader, a true professional and irreplaceable. He achieved over 1,000 points and 150 appearances for Keighley Cougars and he will be sorely missed. We are devastated.
“Our hearts go out to Liz, his children and his family.”
RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer said: “It is always devastating when someone so young dies in these circumstances. Danny was a popular and talented rugby league player, having played at the highest level with the Wales national team and playing over 12 seasons for Keighley Cougars and Halifax.
“The rugby league community will mourn his loss and I wish to extend our deepest sympathies to Danny’s family and friends at this incredibly sad time. The family, friends and team-mates of Danny are currently and will continue to be supported by the RFL Benevolent Fund and Sporting Chance.
“We would ask that the privacy of the Jones family, players and Keighley Cougars staff be respected.”
An RFL Benevolent Fund Just Giving page for the family of Danny Jones has also been created.
Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/dannyjones29