The wife and rugby family of a much-loved father-of-two who died of lung failure have paid tribute to a committed man and amazing dad.
Lee Spall, 47, contracted coronavirus, despite having had both doses of the vaccine, and pneumonia in June. He started to get organ failure and was put on dialysis and in an induced coma. He tried to battle it and started to get better, but his lungs then started to fail and he sadly died on Monday, August 23.
Grimsby Rugby Club set up a fundraiser to help Lee’s family – Nicky and twin 20-year-old children Liam and Jade – which by the time of publication has raised over £2,300 – donations can be made here.
Lee was part of Grimsby Rugby Club for 35 years, rising up from the junior ranks to the first team. He stopped playing around four years ago, apart from the odd cameo appearance, to become Head Groundsman and look after the club’s pitches.
Lee met his wife Nicky at the Honest Lawyer pub in Grimsby nearly 27 years ago and it would’ve been their anniversary next week.
Nicky gave an emotional tribute to The Lincolnite and said: “He was an amazing dad and his family meant everything to him, not just his family but also his rugby club family.
“When Lee ever did something and made a commitment he saw it through. He wasn’t somebody that ever did anything half-heartedly. He always did everything thoroughly, took pride in it and did a good job of it.
“Even after finishing playing, he took pride in making the grass as good as it could be.
“He was just such a great guy and the club was everything to him. They (the rugby family) have been amazing and I cannot say how much in words, but they have just come through and been there for him and us. They are a different type of people.”
“The love that is pouring in for him and us I can’t put into words. I’ve not felt like this before and nobody prepares you for anything like this.
“The support I’ve had is amazing, especially from a lifelong friend of Lee’s from the club, Jim Saunders, as without him and his wife Rach I don’t think I could be here talking now, they have been like a rock to me.”
Lee worked at an oil refinery in Immingham and was into his football as an Everton fan, but rugby was his true passion.
The scrum-half was club captain at Grimsby Rugby Club for several years and was loved by everyone who played with and knew him. The pinnacle of his time at Grimsby came when he played for the club in a touch tournament at Twickenham in 2009, a day him and his team-mates will never forget.
The players met up on Monday evening to talk about their memories of Lee and to raise a glass in his honour. They draped his rugby shirt over a table with his favourite two drinks on top of it – a pint of Carling and a glass of port.
The club has decided to retire his number nine shirt for the upcoming season and will hold a two minute silence in his memory in the pre-season friendly at Market Rasen on Saturday, September 4.
Nathan Watson, who played with Lee in the 1st XV for around six years, said: “He was a live hard, die hard kind of bloke that would do anything for the club. He gave his life to the club and was a truly top man and all round nice guy.
“He was always up for a laugh and enjoyed the rugby sing songs.
“It’s been great to have the support of the Grimsby rugby family. Several players came to raise a glass and talk about him and it was great that we all came together to show our support for Lee and his family.”
Ben Pharaoh played with Lee at Grimsby for around 15 years and said his friend had “a big impact on the rugby family”.
Ben said: “Lee had old school values being on a rugby pitch, he was uncompromising and fair, and one of the first to have a beer with the opposition afterwards.
“He was the life and soul in terms of changing room banter and was very genuine. You knew exactly where you stood with him.
“When we got the news, we gathered for a drink together and saw the impact it had on all the lads. That’s when it really got me and it was an emotional evening.”
Baden Kerr was friends with Lee for around nine years. Lee coached him during his junior days and they later played a handful of games together for the senior sides.
Baden said: “He was a spot on bloke. He was brutally honest, but was always there to give you the encouragement and support needed.
“He was funny to play with, the game was serious to him, but he was always up for a laugh.
“He said this one phrase to me ‘we bleed blue’ after a Market Rasen game when they wanted to sign me, but I stayed at Grimsby and learnt more about what this meant as the years went on.”
Grimsby Rugby Club president Martin Simons said his memories of Lee got right back to him in his younger days after having also been at the club for around 35 years.
He said: “Lee was a committed player and loved the game and the physical aspect of it. He excelled at it and was a very good player.
“When his playing career came to an end, he took on the groundsman role which he did brilliantly. He was a great asset to the club both playing and non-playing.
“He was a family man, quiet and reserved, and if he believed in something he would fight for it. He enjoyed the camaraderie of the players and the sing song.
“The rugby club has rallied around Nicky and helped where we can. We are here to support Nicky and the family where needed. Lee will be missed around the place, he was a character and held in high regard. There is a hole in the club and he was a big part of the rugby family so it is upsetting.”