Rugby players across Northland will observe a moment's silence before kick-off today and wear black armbands to acknowledge the passing of two of the region's great rugby supporters.
Daniel "Blackie" Walters died yesterday after the vehicle he was driving was in a crash involving a school bus and ute, on State Highway 12 near Mamaranui, 20km northwest of Dargaville.
Just the day before Mr Walters, a staunch Dargaville Old Boys Rugby Club volunteer, had attended the funeral of his friend and fellow Northern Wairoa Rugby and Taniwha supporter Ian Condon.
After an initial scene examination yesterday, Northland road policing manager Inspector Wayne Ewers said it appeared a bus carrying 14 school students, understood to be travelling southbound towards Dargaville, had stopped on the road and was about to turn right into a gravel area to collect or drop off more students.
A Hilux ute, with two people, travelling behind the bus tried to avoid the school bus, clipped the right rear corner of the bus, crossed into the north-bound lane and collided head-on with a Suzuki car driven by Mr Walters.
Mr Walters, 70, died at the scene. No school students were injured and the male and female in the Hilux ute suffered minor injuries.
"This is another sad day for some of our Northland families and everyone involved," said Mr Ewers.
Northland Rugby Union chief executive officer Jeremy Parkinson said it had been a sad week for Northern Wairoa Rugby with Ian Condon passing last weekend and now "Blackie".
"Blackie will be deeply missed as he was a tireless volunteer who always had a smile on his face, was available any time to drive the bus transporting club and Northland representative teams to fixtures throughout the province and wider afield," Mr Parkinson said.
"We want him to be remembered as he should be. He was one hell of a fella and ingrained in Northland rugby society."
He said before all officiated Northland fixtures across the province today there would be a moment's silence before games.
Mr Condon was a committee member of the Dargaville Rugby Club and had been coaching and refereeing for more than three decades.
He was the development officer for the Northland Rugby Referees Association and was still grading referees at premier levels.
In a joint statement released by Dargaville Primary School, Kaihu Valley School and Dargaville High School it was confirmed the families of the students involved were contacted after yesterday's crash.
"This is an extremely upsetting time for our community, our students and our staff," the statement said.
The schools had made contact with the Ministry of Education's Traumatic Incident Team and would be supporting students and staff.
Eva Pirini, Old Boys Rugby Club president, said her uncle Blackie had joined the club in 1972 and family and rugby were his life.
He was a long-serving player coach for Dargaville Old Boys and had coached the senior reserves women's team.
While the club had not had a senior men's team in the Southern Districts competition for a few years, Blackie had personally helped fund the women's team for three years.
"He will be a big loss for the club and the wider community," she said.
Family members had already begun to gather at his house yesterday in preparation for his tangi.