Devastation as Athlete Collapses, Dies on Field in Middle of Game – Players Surround Body to Pay Respects

A New Zealand rugby player died during a match on Saturday.

The player, whose name was not given, died after what the New Zealand Herald called an “on-field incident” during the match in Ruatoria.

After his death, the players surrounded him where he lay to pay their respects.

Attempts to save the man’s life included the dispatching of two ambulances and a rescue helicopter, but the player was pronounced dead at the scene, the Herald reported.

Multiple Maori customs were observed to mark the sudden death.

A traditional chant known as a karakia was performed as the athlete’s body was removed from the field. The ground where he lay after he collapsed was blessed as well.

The match, which was played in honor of the centenary of the Ruatoria team, was called off.

The special game was also a prelude to the Lochore Cup final, which went on as scheduled despite the man’s death earlier in the day.

A minute of silence preceded the Lochore Cup match.

Following the final, players and over 100 fans joined in a ritual dance known as a haka — common in New Zealand rugby — to honor the fallen athlete.

The player had told teammates the night before that he hoped to mark the special day by scoring, according to another report from the Herald. He died before he even touched the ball.

“It was all about celebrating 100 years of one of the country’s smallest clubs and one of the fellas who came back up here to play in what was supposed to be a festival game … unfortunately never managed to walk off,” the Herald quoted a spectator as saying.

Leeroy Kururangi, chief executive of Ngāti Porou East Coast, which won the second match to win the Lochore Cup, said the player’s death was unfortunate.

“It did put us off our game a little. We played a little bit for him, but mostly for ourselves,” he said.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.