MORE than 1,200 rugby fans have helped raise more than £27,000 for the young family of Keighley Cougars player Danny Jones who died after suffering a suspected heart attack during a game.
The Rugby Football League’s Benevolent Fund had a modest target of £1,000 when it was launched but by last night generous fans from clubs across Yorkshire and Lancashire had exceeded all expectations.
The owner of Leigh Centurions, Derek Beaumont, separately pledged another £2,000.
Donors paid tribute to the popular player, who was a married father of five-month-old twins.
Jones, from Halifax, was described as “the life and soul in the dressing room, a natural leader, a true professional and irreplaceable”, by a Keighley Cougars spokesman.
His former club, Halifax, described him as a “larger than life character, as befits a half back” who was “universally respected throughout the game”.
The Wales international, who was 29, collapsed after being replaced during the game at London Skolars on Sunday.
After being treated at the ground he was taken to the Royal Free Hospital where he died. London Ambulance Service said “extensive efforts” were made to resuscitate Jones.
Last night a spokesman for the RFL, the game’s governing body, said he expected a review to be carried out into cardiac screening arrangements at clubs.
Checks are being carried out to see whether Jones had undergone a cardiac scan during his career, but this information was
not immediately available to the RFL.
Calls for a fresh look at player welfare arrangements were backed by Clive Griffiths, who coached Jones at Wales.
Griffiths told BBC Wales: “I’m sure that when things like this happen, that the governing body will sit up and take note and see what is best for player welfare for the future.”
The coach who signed Halifax-born Jones for Keighley Cougars, Barry Eaton, spoke of his shock.
“Me and my wife are still struggling to come to terms with it ourselves,” said Eaton, the current Hunslet Hawks coach.
“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 the 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.”