A promising rugby referee hanged himself at work in a South Bank factory after a text fall-out with his girlfriend, an inquest heard.
Glowing tributes were paid by rugby clubs after Tony Jenkins, 25, died in January.
The fabricator was a member of Seaton Carew Rugby Club, which called him “a true gentleman of the game and one of rugby’s nice guys”.
The tribute added: “He brought passion to anything he could turn a hand to, first turning up as a fresh faced 17-year-old keen to play rugby with friends.
“He took to refereeing and excelled at it too, an example to anyone looking to take the whistle.
“Tony will be missed by everyone in Seaton Carew RUFC and the wider rugby community.”
Hartlepool Rovers also paid tribute to Mr Jenkins.
Details about his death were given at an inquest at Teesside Coroner’s Court on Friday.
A workmate found him at SM Thompson Ltd’s Marathon Works on January 15.
A statement from Mr Jenkins’ mother, Catherine Farrington, was read to the inquest.
In it, she said her son was a “happy, loving, normal guy who enjoyed his life”.
She said he lived with his girlfriend and their dog, and planned to get married in Cyprus in September 2019.
He was part of a loving family and had recently received good news about his grandfather’s health.
In her statement read to the inquest, Mr Jenkins’ mother said she believed the couple had been having problems and fallen out in a text message conversation, but her understanding was they were “just taking a break”.
Of his death, she said: “I believe this was an instant act of despair or a cry for help.”
She also stressed the family did not blame anyone for Tony’s death.
Teesside senior coroner Clare Bailey said she had seen texts between the couple “and it does appear he became more upset and concerned as the messages progress.”
Work colleagues told how Mr Jenkins, of Dunlin Road, Hartlepool, was a popular and polite man who kept himself to himself.
Police said there were no suspicious circumstances and no evidence of third party involvement.
In her conclusion, Ms Bailey noted that Mr Jenkins was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
She added: “I’m mindful of the text messages and the fact his mother feels he will have been in despair that his girlfriend had blocked his texts, although I accept her evidence this may have been a temporary cessation of communication.”
Recording a verdict of suicide, she said: “I’m satisfied Tony intended to take his own life.”