The Lancashire rugby union community is mourning the death of former Preston Grasshoppers and Fylde scrum half Chris O’Toole.
He died at the weekend after an apparent heart attack while playing in a cricket match
O’Toole was one of the most familiar figures in North West rugby over a career spanning 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 Fylde 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.
O’Toole was known by his nickname ‘Cocker’ and he was a fearless and abrasive competitor in the number nine jersey, capable of running a game from midfield.
He waqs so strong and aggressive that it was almost like having an extra forward on the field.
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]