Fundraising tops £10k as tributes pour in for rugby international (29) who suffered suspected heart-attack
Rugby league players, fans and administrators came together on Monday to raise in excess of £10,000 to support the family of Danny Jones - the Keighley player who died on Sunday of a suspected cardiac arrest.
The 29-year-old Wales international was taken off four minutes into Sunday's game at London Skolars after feeling unwell. He collapsed at the side of the field, an air ambulance was called and he was taken by road to the Royal Free Hospital. Extensive efforts failed to resuscitate him.
Jones leaves behind wife Liz and five-month-old twins.
The sport's Benevolent Fund has immediately started its fundraising mission to help Jones' family cope with the consequences - joined by Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont who separately pledged £2,000 and challenged other club owners to do the same.
Within three hours of being launched, the fund's total stood at over £8,000, with fellow rugby league players amongst the donors. That number was set to continue growing.
The RFL Benevolent Fund was set up with the intention of "helping players who suffer life-changing accidents" and has done notable work with a number of players to have been seriously injured or worse.
Just some of the tributes at Keighley's Cougar Park for Danny Jones. pic.twitter.com/R25zAaBogL— Aaron Bower (@AaronBower) May 4, 2015
Keighley opened the gates of their Cougar Park stadium to allow mourners to leave tributes and Twitter pictures showed shirts being laid from several clubs, including as far afield as Catalans Dragons.
Writing on Twitter, Keighley coach Paul March said: "I'd like to thank everyone for their support at this difficult time, we are all devastated at our loss, life is so cruel at times RIP Jonesy."
Keighley confirmed the tragic news regarding Jones on Sunday evening.
"Danny was much loved and highly respected by all at the club and in rugby league," they said of the goal-kicking full-back.
"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.''
Winning 12 caps for Wales, Jones spent his club career with Keighley and hometown club Halifax, although the standout moment came when he represented Wales in the 2013 World Cup, facing the Cook Islands in Neath.
Wales Rugby League chairman Brian Juliff said: ''Everyone at Wales Rugby League is very shocked to hear of Danny's sudden passing. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues at this sad time.''
Hunslet coach Barry Eaton signed Jones for Keighley in 2008 and he told the Yorkshire Post of his sadness.
"Me and my wife are still struggling to come to terms with it ourselves," he said.
"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 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."
The Rugby Football League's chief operations officer Ralph Rimmer also paid his tributes.
"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," he said.
"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.''
Jones is the second rugby league player in just over six years to die after collapsing during a match.
Wakefield forward Leon Walker, who was 20, fell ill during a Wildcats reserve game with Celtic Crusaders in Maesteg in March 2009. It was later discovered that he had an undiagnosed heart defect and a coroner ruled that he died from natural causes.
Just six months before then, Wakefield's Cook Island international Adam Watene, 31, died after collapsing during a training session.
Leeds half-back Chris Sanderson died on the pitch in a match against Salford in 1977.
The Rugby Football League is expected to announce on Tuesday further details relating to tributes, while several Championship clubs have said they will be holding collections for Jones' family this weekend.
Keighley added on their official Twitter account that their players would decide on Tuesday whether or not they wanted this weekend's clash with Coventry to go ahead.