Staff of the Fijian Shangri-La Resort sang a traditional Fijian song to farewell Kaitaia-born former All Black Mike Burgoyne who died suddenly while holidaying at the popular tourist spot.
The six-game All Black of Ngati Kahu descent died on Tuesday last week and a funeral service will be held at the Te Ahu Community Centre, Kaitaia at 11am today followed by interment at Kareponia Urupa.
His family thanked the Fijian community for all their love and support after his death. Shangri-La's Fijian Resort general manager Craig Powell said Burgoyne was well-liked by his staff and the wider Nadroga community, particularly in rugby circles.
He said Burgoyne's family had been loyal guests of the resort over the years and he was treated by his staff as one of their own.
"His death was a massive blow to us and we'll all obviously miss him very much. He was a good friend, had a big heart and was very well connected with the locals here," Mr Powell said.
He said Burgoyne had planned to return for the resort's 50th celebration next year.
He was a man of rugby and Mr Powell said he and Burgoyne last year made a bold prediction that Fiji would win gold in 7s rugby at the Olympics.
Burgoyne's daughter returned to New Zealand before he passed away but his wife was to have flown back with him sometime last weekend.
"Our staff quickly offered help to his wife and we made sure we were with her the whole time. We offered a special token to be included as part of his funeral arrangements and my staff sang a farewell Fijian song called Isa Lei," Mr Powell said.
"He understood the Fijians well. I can't believe he's no longer with us. He was too young to go because he kept himself in good shape."
Burgoyne was 67.
Mr Powell said Burgoyne also had a special bond with the wider rugby fraternity in Nadroga which was known as the powerhouse of Fijian rugby.
Burgoyne played 31 matches for North Auckland between 1975 and 1981, and was selected to play for the All Blacks in 1979.
He played six matches for New Zealand, and played for the New Zealand Maori side between 1975-1979. He toured Fiji in 1979 with the Maori All Blacks and played against Fiji during the opening of the National Stadium in Suva since renamed the ANZ Stadium.