Wairarapa's soccer fraternity is in shock after the body of a star player and coach was found wedged in rocks at Castlepoint yesterday.
Searchers retrieved the body of Miroslav Tvaroh, 34, of Greytown, from Castle Rock, a rocky outcrop on the Riversdale Beach side of The Gap, at 7.45am after it was spotted by an Amalgamated Helicopters crew.
An inflatable from Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club was brought in to help recover the body but could not, because of the swell.
Special equipment on board the helicopter was used to lift the body from the rocks and bring it out.
Mr Tvaroh, a Czech national, was reported missing by his partner Simona on Christmas Eve after he failed to return from a drive to the coast.
A major search and rescue operation was mounted when his blue Mazda stationwagon was found abandoned near a church in Jetty Rd.
Mr Tvaroh had been in New Zealand for eight years and Simona, his lifelong friend, arrived from the Czech Republic to join him about two years ago.
Police have confirmed the death is to be referred to the coroner and that it resulted from Mr Tvaroh falling from Castle Rock.
Castle Rock can be accessed from Jetty Rd or Balfour Cres.
Wairarapa United's head coach, Phil Keinzley, said Mr Tvaroh had loved New Zealand and he and Simona had been in the process of applying for citizenship.
Regarded as a linchpin of Wairarapa United's premier soccer team Mr Tvaroh - a holding midfielder - played more than 100 games for the top team and was part of the Chatham Cup-winning side in 2011.
He was employed as Wairarapa United's development coach and coached their second side, winning promotion from Capital Football division three to division two.
He was also the head coach of the Heartland Wairarapa under-20 side.
The team are to play their first game in the national youth league on January 11.
Mr Keinzley described Mr Tvaroh as "a really awesome guy" who had been one of his best mates.
"Miroslav has been a very important part of Wairarapa United. He took on a massive development programme, coaching at colleges, primary schools and all the country schools."
Heartland Wairarapa chief executive Sam Rossiter-Stead said that the club's players were "gutted" by the news.
"He's spent the last few months preparing this [under-20] team for our first-ever foray into the highest level of age-grade football," he said.
"Miroslav was such an inspiration to them. It's devastating he won't be there."
He said the club was grateful to Football New Zealand and Capital Football for their support.
"Parents and players have sent many messages of support - many of them offered to help with the search."
Mr Rossiter-Stead said the club's board, players and parents planned a tribute to Mr Tvaroh.
The loss of the star sportsman comes 18 months after the sea claimed the life of an up-and-coming rugby player.
Fijian Eroni Gaunavou, 22, played for Puketoi and had just made the Wairarapa-Bush squad when he was lost at sea at Akitio at Easter last year.
His body was never recovered and an inquest established the cause of death as drowning.APN