A RUGBY tournament set up in tribute of a much-loved dad-of-four will take place again next month, in what is planned to be an annual event.

A much-loved man in the community and long-time player at Leigh RUFC, Craig Vernel sadly took his own life in September 2021.

After the 38-year-old left behind a loving wife, two daughters and two young sons, as well as a wider family, the TryIT Rugby Academy set up a rugby sevens tournament in his honour last year, as part of the weekend festival at Leigh RUFC.

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Leigh Journal: Craig was a much-loved dad-of-fourCraig was a much-loved dad-of-four (Image: Emma Vernel)

Aptly named the 'Vernel Cup', the tournament was a way to bring people together who knew or played with Craig, and allow his two sons, Jackson and Archie, to feel a part of the legacy that he left behind at the club.

Following the emotional event last May, which saw Jackson and Archie presenting the trophy to the winning team, the tournament will return next month in what is planned to be a "bigger and better" occasion.

Leigh Journal: Jackson and Archie handed out the winning trophy of the 'Vernel Cup' last yearJackson and Archie handed out the winning trophy of the 'Vernel Cup' last year (Image: Emma Vernel)

Craig's wife Emma, said: "Last year was very emotional because it was the first time that the event was held in memory of Craig.

"It was brilliant to see so many people coming together to support us and learn about what happened. 

"There were about 400 people there and everyone rallied around us, it was phenomenal. But this year we're planning for it to be even bigger and better."

Leigh Journal: Jackson with family friend and TryIT organiser Joshua JonesJackson with family friend and TryIT organiser Joshua Jones (Image: Emma Vernel)

Taking place as part of Leigh RUFC's Festival on Saturday, May 27, the tournament will involve 'Elite', 'Social', and 'Ladies' groups, with four teams penned in each group so far.

There will also be local charities available at the festival, that can speak about issues surrounding mental health and the support that they offer, such as Andy's Man Club from Leigh and the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide.

As Craig also served in the Royal Navy, the Scotties Little Soldiers charity will also be in attendance, which offers support to children whose parents have died while serving or after previously serving in the armed forces.

Leigh Journal: Emma and CraigEmma and Craig (Image: Emma Vernel)

Emma added: "Craig was so full of life and everyone who knew him, knew him as the was the life and soul of the party. 

"I knew he was struggling but not to the extent that he was, so it was a real shock [when he passed].

"That's why we're hoping the tournament becomes an annual event, to remember Craig but also promote the charities to anyone else who may be struggling and show them what support there is out there."

For more support around suicide and mental health issues:

  • The Samaritans national helpline can be found here.
  • Papyrus young suicide prevention website can be found here.
  • Andy's Man Club Facebook page can be found here.
  • Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide website can be found here.
  • Scotties Little Soldiers website can be found here.