TRIBUTES have been paid to one of Whitchurch Rugby Club’s most popular members.

James Dunn, known as ‘Rookie’, died in Australia, where he worked in Brisbane as a civil engineer, after a cycling accident last week.

Long-time friend Tom Hares praised the “tenacious nature” of James, who was 42.

“It was in the late 1990s that Rookie took Whitchurch Rugby Club by storm both on and off the pitch,” said Tom.

“A 5ft3ins Geordie speaking pocket rocket, he managed to organise the social side of post-training and match day rugby.

“He was a tenacious player on the pitch either bossing the forwards at scrum-half or as a hard-tackling wing three quarter.

“Many large opposing backs tried and failed to steamroll over him only to find to their surprise they were being lifted up and put back where they were coming from.”

James played at various levels before the first team.

“He was fully committed to the club progressing through the colts,” added Tom. “Fourths, thirds, seconds and first team.

“Rookie’s house was an extension of the clubhouse as he was left in charge of his parents’ house as they worked out in the Middle East and most Sundays involved a big fry up there before going back to the club to pick up cars and kit.”

Off the pitch James was always involved in rugby, regularly watching internationals and leading the party with his teammates.

“Rookie was an excellent tourist on the many rugby club tours he had a knack of leading the charge and then stepping to one side and laughing as the fun got more serious,” Tom added.

“He had a love of rugby that stayed with him through his life, the values of playing hard and then celebrating and commiserating with your teammates has always been with him.

“I have watched Internationals with him in Europe and in Australia and he was always instrumental in organising smart tour gear that we all can wear with pride now remembering the great times we had with him.”

Tom also pointed to James’s commitment to family life.

“Rookie excelled at whatever he wanted to do he had a strong passion for what he wanted out of life and strived hard to get them,” said Tom.

“He married CiCi, the love of his life, had three fantastic kids who he doted on having the family life he always wanted, his work took him all over the world.

“Every place Rookie called home, he soon created a loyal, hard-working, fun group of friends.

“Rookie would always go the extra mile to include people and whenever he returned to a place he was welcomed with open arms and life would pick up from where you left off.”

“Sadly, Rookie was taken too soon. He will be greatly missed by all that knew and loved him.”

A spokesman for Whitchurch Rugby Club also offered their condolences to CiCi, James’ children Artie, Bella and Charlie, and to his parents.