Hartlepool’s rugby team have arrived home from their Bangkok adventure, writes Roy Kelly.
And they have named Cameron Lithgo as their player of the tournament.
The 20-year-old landed two conversions in the final of the Shield at the Bangkok International Sevens in the Thai capital.
His nerveless kicking helped Hartlepool to a 19-5 triumph over Lao Nagas which ensured the united town side returned from their debut in the annual event with some silverware.
And the Seaton Carew stand-off was the unanimous choice of coach Michael Ainslie and manager John Bickerstaff.
When the boss announced the decision at the team’s ‘local’ pub in Bangkok, the Royal Oak, ahead of departure, it drew instant applause from the entire squad.
“Cam had a fabulous tournament,” said Ainslie.
“He’s a smashing player in his own right, but to come from Seaton Carew, one of the lowest level clubs, to play in a very good competition against international teams, he really acquitted himself well.
“His attitude was spot on, he was the first on the field when I said it was time to warm up and in the games he wanted to be on the field all the time.
“He had a few words once or twice when he was brought off, because he always wanted to be involved.
“But when I spoke to him and said he needed rests in that heat, he understood.
“He played very well and stood up to the plate with some good kicking.”
Ainslie lauded the entire squad with praise in the intense heat and energy-sapping humidity in Thailand.
Hartlepool’s team, led by Liam Bailey, and including West colleagues, Liam Austwicke, Boys Brigade Old Boys back Peter Howe, Horden & Peterlee duo Brad Green and Jack McCallum, and Rovers pair, Alex Rochester and Adam Smith, performed superbly on the park and conducted themselves equally well off it.
“They are a great bunch of lads,” he told SportMail. “You don’t always know how things will work out when you pull a load of different lads together.
“But they all gelled and played good rugby.
“All the lads were a credit to the town and district and their clubs.
“Players like Liam Bailey and Lee Maddison while not older than the other lads perhaps had that bit of extra experience because of the level they’ve played.
“But they all stepped up in a very good competition, no-one more so than Jack, who made a massive difference to the side when he was on the park.”