MORE than 100 players joined together to pay their respects to a popular sportsman who died suddenly at the age of 27.
Sunderland Rugby Club centre Jamie Maclennan was diagnosed with epilepsy more than 10 years ago and did not let the condition get in the way of life, but in recent months had started suffering a series of seizures.
His mum Karen, 53, found his body in his bed on the morning of December 11, and it is thought he had suffered a seizure.
In the aftermath of his death, the club cancelled games, but returned to the pitch at the weekend against Durham City, with the fixture dedicated to Jamie.
Ahead of the game, members of the club’s 12 junior and mini sides, women’s squad and three senior sides were among those to take part in a tribute, with a two-minute silence before the match kicked off.
Paul Geehan, the club’s chairman, said: “It’s a way of the players paying their respects and we know other clubs in the area have also held two minutes’ silence.
“It’s not just about being a player, it’s about being part of the rugby family where we all come together, and it’s also brought back people who haven’t played for a while but played with Jamie.
“He would be shocked about this. He was just full of joy. The thing about Jamie was he enjoyed everything he did.
“He was somebody who could make everybody smile.”
Jamie’s time with the club began when he was 12, after he had started to play while a pupil at Thornhill School.
It was as he left school to go to Houghall Rugby Academy, at East Durham College, that he was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Among those to attend Saturday’s match was Karen, dad Alex, 56, brother Aidan, 16, who is an under-17s player, and his sister Nichola, 35, and her children Harriet, five, Ruby, three, and Charlie, two.
His girlfriend Emily Ferries, 24, who met him when they both worked for EDF Energy in Doxford Park, was also in the stand, along with Jamie’s aunts, uncles and cousins.
Karen said: “The club has been absolutely fantastic. It’s been brilliant in its support when it happened and in its support since – it’s been overwhelming.
“They cancelled the games the weekend Jamie died and now dedicated this game to him.
“Jamie would have been proud and honoured they did this for him.”
Sunderland’s side on Saturday included Father Peter Garvie, of St Peter’s and St Mary’s in Springwell Road, who led Jamie’s packed funeral service.
The game saw families back the chapel’s appeal for a new carpet, with Karen helping to sell raffle tickets for a draw backed by a host of supporters.