Tributes have been paid to an "immensely talented" rugby player from County Durham who passed away at the age of just 22.

Connor Drinkwater, known to friends as 'Drinky', tragically passed away on September 8, 2021, leaving his family and friends devastated.

The talented rugby player was a valued member of his home team of Seaham Rugby Club with a spokesperson for the club saying he was "extremely close" to his teammates and coaches.

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He also leaves behind his beloved fiancée Kayleigh, baby girl Nancy and stepson Elton.

In a touching tribute to the young player, a spokesperson for the club said he was one of the most "down-to-earth" and "genuine" people you could meet.

Connor Drinkwater who tragically passed away on September 8, 2021, at the age of 22, with his rugby teammates
Connor Drinkwater who tragically passed away on September 8, 2021, at the age of 22, with his rugby teammates

A spokesperson for the club said: "Drinky was at the very heart of Seaham Rugby Club and was a friend and brother to every one of the lads who played alongside him, as well as a face that anyone around the club or Seaham would recognise.

"On the pitch, Connor’s fierce style of play could only be matched by his dedication and will to win, putting his body on the line week in week out, an immensely talented rugby player at the heart of every game in the front row or at fly-half.

"Off the pitch, Drinky was one of the most down-to-earth, genuine, funny and outgoing personalities you could meet, who’d often have the lads in stitches on many a Saturday night in the club following a game.

"Whether it was his shirtless performances at the bar, his light-hearted jokes with his teammates, or just his all-around personality with everyone he met, he truly was one of a kind and irreplaceable.

Connor Drinkwater tragically passed away on September 8, 2021, at the age of 22
Connor Drinkwater tragically passed away on September 8, 2021, at the age of 22

"Every one of us involved with Seaham Rugby Club and the area will have our own special memories of Connor, he will always hold a special place in the hearts of us all, an amazing young man taken far too soon."

Connor joined the club after watching his dad Davey play week in week out and went on to become "a huge part" of their senior section.

He also played as a junior at West Hartlepool and Horden, and played rugby league for Peterlee Pumas and Hartlepool Hurricanes, as well as achieving a junior north east scholar.

A Go Fund Me page was set up to help raise money for his heartbroken family with the initial £1,000 target smashed in days.

The page reads: "Connor was a loyal, genuine, funny, kind and caring young man - loved and missed greatly by all who were blessed to know him. Connor has been taken far too soon.

Connor Drinkwater tragically passed away on September 8, 2021, at the age of 22
Connor Drinkwater tragically passed away on September 8, 2021, at the age of 22

"He was a talented, keen, and dedicated rugby player, playing for his home team Seaham RUFC. Friend and brother to all within the club.

"Connor leaves behind a young family. His beloved fiancée Kayleigh, baby girl Nancy & stepson Elton. They are enduring heartbreak unimaginable. We are raising money to help support Kayleigh and the family's future.

"Any donations, no matter how big or small are massively appreciated. Thank you in advance for all your support."

So far, more than £3,300 has been raised in memory of Connor.

If you would like to donate to the Go Fund Me page, you can do so here.

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