THE family of a "fun-loving" amateur rugby league player who has died have paid tribute to him.

Dad-of-two Stephen Cleworth, from Leigh, died suddenly on Sunday at the age of 44.

There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

His wife of 15 years, Suzanne, 39, said: "Stephen's death is devastating.

"He was a fun-loving, loud person who was the life and soul of the party and a wonderful dad. He was like everybody's friend.

"He grew up on rugby and was a big Leigh Centurions fan.

"He also loved other sports like golf, cricket and snooker as well and our son took after him in that way.  

"Since Stephen died I have had lots of nice messages of support and my house is like a florists at the moment."

On the rugby pitch, Stephen played as a full back for Leigh Miners Rangers and Leigh East ARLFC.

He went on to play for Leigh Miners Rangers Masters, the club's over-35s team, and starred for Lancashire at this level which Suzanne says he was very proud of.  

Throughout his career, he worked as a HGV driver.

Stephen leaves behind two children Will, 15, and Willow, nine.

Leigh Miners Rangers Masters team manager Bill Wilkinson added: "Everyone at the club are massively shocked. He was a very nice and bubbly person.

"I have only known him for about four years since he has been in the Masters side but he was really enthusiastic about playing for the team.

"He was always there for training and the first to say he could play for our away matches."