Former Blues Super Rugby player Kurtis Haiu has died from a rare form of cancer, aged 31.
Haiu played 53 games for the Blues between 2006 and 2011 and 75 for provincial club Auckland before retiring because of a rare form of bone cancer.
“The Blues family are deeply saddened by this news. Several of our players were close to Kurt and have spent time with him over the past weeks and months,” Blues chief executive Michael Redman said on behalf of the team’s players and management.
He said the franchise would discuss an official response on Thursday.
The Rugby Players Association said Haiu had tried a variety of treatments for the cancer, Ewings Sarcoma, including alternative treatment in Switzerland and surgery.
Blues Captain Jerome Kaino said Haiu’s battle with cancer was characteristically brave.
“I loved playing footy with Kurtis and I will treasure those memories of my Blues brother and pray that he rests in peace,” he said.
Haiu also represented New Zealand at the under-19 and under-21 levels and played for Auckland’s Marist Rugby Club.
“It is with great sadness that we inform our Marist Family of the passing on of a Marist son, Kurtis Haiu. No doubt there will be more said about you Kurtis and your devotion to our beloved club but for now, we just bid you farewell,” the club posted on its Facebook page.
Tributes are already flowing in social media, including from former All Black Keven Mealamu who tweeted: “Rest well my Brother, Much Love and Blessing”.