Diego Hulton would always hassle his Rotorua childhood mates about getting together again.
But Julian Minhinnick and Logan Thompson never expected it would be as pallbearers at his funeral.
About 300 people gathered at Tunohopu Marae today to farewell the former Rotorua man who died on February 7 after being attacked outside a Perth bar.
Mr Hulton, 37, was a father of two and moved to Australia about six years ago.
He was injured trying to help his brother, who was being attacked by a group outside the bar on February 3. Mr Hulton took a hit to the head, was knocked unconscious and died in hospital four days later.
"I'll miss the communication from him," Mr Minhinnick, who flew to Rotorua from Melbourne for the funeral, told the Rotorua Daily Post today.
"No matter what part of the world you were, he would always stay in touch."
Only a few months ago, he was "moaning" to Mr Minhinnick and Mr Thompson they hadn't seen each other lately and they should get all their friends together to talk about old times.
"Well, he got us together. That is the sad part about it," Mr Minhinnick said.
Mr Thompson told the Rotorua Daily Post after the funeral that he wasn't surprised to hear the circumstances in which Mr Hulton was killed.
"The last time I saw him he was protecting me. Some fella wanted to have a go at me [in Rotorua at a bar] and he came along and broke it up. He did it not in an aggressive way but just made sure no one touched us and kept the peace. That was him."
Mr Hulton's mother, Rosa Hulton, delivered an emotional eulogy inside the meeting house.
The family thanked everyone for their support and donations which helped raise $24,000 - money which went towards getting Mr Hulton's body home.
Several friends and family members travelled to Rotorua from Perth for the funeral.
His body was buried later in the day at Kauae Cemetery.
Meanwhile, two men, aged 32 and 22, have been charged with Mr Hulton's murder.
For more articles from this region, go to Rotorua Daily Post