LEEDS Rhinos star Jamie Jones-Buchanan has paid tribute to a ‘pillar of the community game’ who died after suffering a suspected heart attack just minutes after playing a match.
Father-of-two Dave Batchelor, 43, collapsed on Sunday afternoon following a Masters game for players aged over 35 at Oulton Raiders ground next to Rothwell Sports Centre.
Leeds Masters RL player Mr Batchelor, of Farsley, had answered a call to play for Halifax team Boothtown Terriers, who were short of players for the game against Oulton Raiders Masters.
Oulton Raiders player Lee Bryan, 41, of Wrenthorpe, said: “All the players shook hands in Masters tradition and we all got in a huddle and gave three cheers for the opposition.
“We had the huddle and Dave went off to walk towards the clubhouse.
Mr Bryan said Mr Batchelor – known to friends as ‘Batch’ – collapsed and players attempted to resuscitate him before paramedics arrived.
Mr Bryan said: “It was just total shock. There were blokes in tears who had tried to revive him. It was heartbreaking to see.
“He was put in the ambulance and 15 minutes later we received a call saying he had passed away.”
Leeds Rhinos fan Mr Batchelor had played for Stanningley RL Club for many years and coached the Under 15’s team.
Leeds Rhinos star Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 34, played junior rugby from aged nine Stanningley when Mr Batchelor was an assistant coach.
Two of Mr Jones-Buchanan’s four sons currently play junior rugby at Stanningley.
He said: “It is a big shock to me to hear that he has passed. He was very enthusiastic and a big part of Stanningley RL Club. The amateur game is built on people like him.
“They are the foundation, without guys like that us professional players wouldn’t be able to go on the journeys and win the trophies.
“He was passionate about rugby and he died doing what he loved. He will be remembered for being one of the pillars of the community game.
“Stanningley is phenomenal. It’s probably one of the best amateur clubs in the country. It is built on people like Batch.”
Mr Batchelor had been playing for Leeds Masters at West Leeds Sports and Social Club in Wortley for around three years.
Leeds Masters team manager Kath Wilson, said: “We are completely devastated. We are heartbroken.”
Mr Batchelor leaves rugby league playing sons Jordan Anderson, 20, and Brandon Batchelor, 16.
Jordan suffered two broken bones in his neck during a game for Dewsbury team Shawcross Sharks in August. He has now recovered and is back playing.
Mr Batchelor’s mother Janette Marshall, 60, of Meanwood, said: “The boys are absolutely devastated. We all are.
“It’s just such a shock to collapse and die like that. They are nearly 100 per cent sure it was a massive heart attack.
”Rugby was his life. He was a gentle giant. He was caring, I couldn’t have wished for a better son. His sons were the world to him, He would do anything for them.”
A statement on Stanningley RL Club’s website reads: “The club would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment he made to Stanningley over the years as player and coach and he will be sadly missed by all.”
Leeds Rhinos Foundation community development officer Sam Horner, 54, played alongside Mr Batchelor for Leeds Masters.
He said: “He was a great bloke and a very knowledgable player. It is a massive loss to rugby league.”