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York rugby league coach Phil Johnson dies, 42
A POPULAR York rugby league coach and former player has died at the age of 42.
The Press understands Phil Johnson died from a suspected heart attack on Friday evening or early Saturday morning while on a holiday flight to Turkey.
Mr Johnson, who was known to many as OJ, was the manager and coach of York Ladies Rugby League Club and was chairman of New Earswick All Blacks . His death has prompted tributes from friends and colleagues in the rugby world.
Former All Blacks chairman, Charles Rollinson, said he received news of Mr Johnson’s death over the phone on Saturday and described it as a “massive shock”.
He said: “I worked for many years on the committee with Phil. He was known to everyone as OJ. He was a fantastic worker and totally committed to the club.
“Any job which required doing then OJ would do it. Even going back to his playing days, if we were one short he would pull on a shirt.”
Mr Rollinson described his former colleague as a fun character and said the whole York rugby community would feel the shock.
He said: “It’s a sad loss to the world. I never heard anybody have a bad word about him.”
It is understood All Black officials met earlier this week to discuss how to pay tribute to Mr Johnson and his contribution to the club.
A spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with Phil’s family at this time and the members of all the clubs.”
Earlier this year a jubilant Mr Johnson appeared in The Press where he praised his team, York Ladies Rugby League Club, for their 54-4 victory in the final of the Women’s Amateur Rugby League Association Challenge Cup Plate.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office confirmed the death of a British national on August 24 and said it was providing consular support to the family.