Fylde rugby club supporters and officials are mourning the death of former scrum-half Chris O’Toole.
He died at the weekend of an apparent heart attack while playing cricket.
His premature death has come as a major shock to his former team-mates and Fylde supporters alike.
O’Toole was one of the most familiar figures in North West rugby over an outstanding career of more than 20 years.
By the late 1980s he was featuring at scrum-half in Orrell’s first division (now Premiership) team alongside stars like Nigel Heslop, Bob Kimmins, Dave Southern and Simon Langford.
He moved to the Woodlands at the start of the 1993/4 season and went on to make 166 first team appearances in seven seasons up to and including 1999/2000, scoring 34 tries in the process.
He then had four seasons at Preston Grasshoppers before ending his senior career at West Park (St Helens) in 2006/8.
He travelled extensively to play in international veterans tournaments around the world.
While at Fylde, he was a key member of the squad that won promotion to the Allied Dunbar Premiership Two division in the 2006/7 season.
The souvenir programme produced at the end of that glorious campaign produced pen pictures of the players.
Of Chris O’Toole, it was written: “He has the potential to win every game in plays in. A thorn in opposition number eight and nines that he constantly harried in defence and when in possession, he provided unpredictable success. A great raconteur, Chris was noted for his leaving speeches when disembarking at Haydock!”
O’Toole rejoiced in the nickname ‘Cocker’.
He was as abrasive as he was fearless and on his day was as good as any number nine in the region.
When he was operating at full throttle, it was like having an extra forward on the pitch.
The Facebook comments from former team mates immediately after his death sum up Chris O’Toole better than any other:
“So sad! Top bloke, many good memories with that man. RIP Cocker.” [Anthony Ireland]
“Shocking, nothing other than fun when Cocker was around.” [Mark Preston]
“Way too sad. A one man memory generator.” [Andy Parker]
“Very sad to hear, RIP Cocker, so many memorable quotes. [Graeme Tasker].
O’Toole leaves a wife Ruth and sons Liam and Jamie.