Promising young New Zealand rugby player dies after collapsing in the dressing room during game

Promising young New Zealand rugby player dies after collapsing in the dressing room during game
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Rugby has lost a rising star with the death of Tory Brunning on Saturday, May 12th. The 22-year-old Brunning was playing for the Dapto Canaries in the Illawarra region when he collapsed. The cause of his death is as yet unknown. Brunning was a very promising player. He was a native of New Zealand but moved to Australia to pursue his career.

The talented youth had played alongside National Rugby League players Jackson Hastings, Tyrell Fuimaono and Sione Mata’utia. His death has left his family, friends and the entire Illawarra rugby league community in mourning.

He was found collapsed in the dressing room sheds at the Dapto Showgrounds. Brunning was treated by the opposition team’s doctor until paramedics arrived. Despite attempts to revive him, the young sportsman died at the scene.

The Country Rugby League has issued a statement regarding the death. They have offered their services to anyone in need of counseling and support in this time of grief. Brunning reported flu-like symptoms before his untimely deaths, the Daily Mail reports.


“Country Rugby League and Illawarra Division Rugby League extend their deepest sympathies to the family, friends and teammates of Dapto player Tory Brunning, who tragically passed away at Dapto Showground on Saturday afternoon,” the statement read.

“Country Rugby League together with the Illawarra Division Rugby League National Rugby League, Dapto Leagues Club and the Dapto and Western Suburbs Rugby League clubs have put measures in place to provide counselling and support for the family and friends of Mr Brunning, along with those associated with the Dapto and Western Suburbs clubs.

“In respect for the family of Mr Brunning, CRL will not be making any further comments at this time.”

His elder sister Kourtney described Brunning as “the star of the family.” His distraught family members are now waiting to bring him home to rest in peace in Waitara, Taranaki, New Zealand.

“My baby brother was a star in this family — he was doing so well,” Kourtney Waitarehu said. 


“A piece of our heart has been taken from us all and may he rest in Our Lord’s arms.”

A crowdfunding page has been set up to cover the funeral expenses. More than $17,000 has been raised so far. The money will be used to bring Brunning’s body home and any excess will be used to pay for his funeral and headstone.

“The expense of bringing him home is considerable,” the page reads,“and it is for this reason that the family are asking for anyone who wishes to contribute their koha (gift) to the family, to do so through this page. The family thank everyone for their contribution in advance, and for the tributes already received which mean so much.”

Brunning moved to Australia as a teenager to pursue his dreams of being a major rugby player and had an immediate impact on the field.

“He went from regional football to national New Zealand football and just kept rising, he just had a passion for rugby league,” Waitarehu said. “A star in our eyes and taken in a blink. How beautiful God made you — a piece of my heart.”


Illawarra District Rugby League manager Chris Bannerman told that support was being offered to the players. “Most immediately it’s identifying where there is a need for counselling,” he said. “That’s the most urgent priority, particularly with the people most closely associated with the incident.

“We really can’t say too much more about the circumstances than that at the moment.”

An unnamed family member described Brunning as a "beautiful boy with a lovely heart" who "blossomed into a lovely lad." He was dedicated to the sport with a fiery passion. He was in a relationship with his childhood sweetheart Zoe Salco. A service will be held for Brunning in Wollongong, New South Wales and then he will be brought home to rest in his hometown of Waitara. 


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