Photo Gallery: Hundreds support tournament in memory of Fakenham rugby player Craig Prior
- Credit: IAN BURT
The sporting passions of a cheerful, popular and talented young rugby player were celebrated at a memorial tournament in honour of Craig Prior, who died last month at the age of 18.
A crowd of about 400 turned out for the competition at Fakenham Rugby Club, which brought players from across Norfolk to compete in memory of the prop forward who inspired equal respect among his team-mates and his rivals.
A memorial bench was also unveiled, with a plaque bearing the words 'always keep smiling' – a familiar motif among Craig's friends, family and team-mates who gathered for the event.
His parents Andrew and Tina were among the animated crowds watching from the sidelines.
Mrs Prior, 60, said: 'It is still a bit overwhelming. I didn't realise how much everybody felt for Craig. I knew he had a lot of friends, but for so many of them to come out for him, and give this support – I cannot think of the words to describe it.'
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Mr Prior, 47, added: 'We couldn't have asked for more, and all the help and support we have been given has been amazing.'
Craig's brother Roger Palmer, 34, said: 'The turn-out has been absolutely phenomenal. We knew Craig's worth to ourselves, but we didn't appreciate how far his personality has reached out to other people. He has touched a lot of hearts, and that has been said a number of times – but today proves that he did exactly that.'
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Today's tournament raised money for the Craig Prior Memorial Fund, which has already accumulated £5,000 towards the estimated £7,500 cost of a new scrummage machine for Fakenham Rugby Club.
Players of all ages travelled from clubs including Holt, Thetford, Swaffham and Wymondham. There was also a debut for Craig Prior's Ladies – an impromptu all-female team who played touch-rugby for the first time.
Craig's friend and Fakenham full-back Rory Singleton, 18, from North Park, was one of the tournament organisers. He said his next mission for the memorial fund is a charity skydive on March 23 – despite his self-confessed fear of heights.
Another team-mate, Adam Lingwood, 18, from Sculthorpe, said: 'Craig used to love a tough fight on the pitch, so he would love to have seen us battling out here in this hot weather. It has brought everybody together.'
Craig played for Fakenham at senior and youth level and also represented Norfolk and Leicester Tigers' Elite Player Development Group.
He died after collapsing at his home in Jubilee Avenue, Fakenham on February 10, and his funeral service was held on Friday at St Peter and St Paul's Church in Fakenham.
Donations to the memorial fund can be made over the counter in the Fakenham branch of Barclays bank, or by contacting Roger Palmer on 07880 728412. For more information, visit www.craigpriormemorialfund.co.uk.