Silver Ferns netballer and SKY TV commentator Tania Dalton, who died today, was one of life's "Pied Pipers", recalls former national team manager Sheryl Wells.
Dalton, 45, suffered an internal carotid artery aneurysm while playing touch rugby last Thursday and was rushed to hospital, bleeding from nose and mouth.
She spent most of the weekend in critical condition, life support was switched off yesterday afternoon and she finally passed away this morning, leaving behind husband Duane Dalton and children Tayla, Charlie and Matt.
Wells said news of Dalton's death has been met with shock and disbelief among the New Zealand netball fraternity.
"She was just a much-loved person and will be dearly, dearly missed in the netball community and in many other communities - she was involved in everything."
Wells, who managed the Silver Ferns 1993-2004, said Dalton was renowned for her fun-loving nature, and joked she was a bit of a handful to manage at times.
"I actually used to say to her 'Tania, you taught me everything I know about managing', because I always had to be a step ahead of her," said Wells. "She was a lot of fun.
"She was a Pied Piper, like a gatherer of people. Whenever you saw Tania, there were always a group of people around her, usually laughing, because she was so much fun and had a gift of making everyone feel special."
When it was game time, however, Dalton was all business, whether she was on the court or on the bench.
Wells said Dalton played a small, but crucial role in New Zealand's tense win over Australia in the 2003 World Cup final, helping settle the team when Temepara Bailey was famously sent off the court for two centre passes late in the final quarter.
With Bailey off the court, the Ferns were forced to have a quick reshuffle of positions to ensure there was a player to take the centre pass.
"When Temepara, much to our dismay and shock, was stood down, Lesley [Rumball] knew straight away to come to the sideline and Tania was quickly on her feet, picking up the spare centre bib beside me, and went over to Lesley to attach the bib and gave her a little 'go well, Les' .
"Back Lesley marched to the centre circle and the rest is history," said Wells. "She was absolutely fantastic on the sideline - she was like my assistant manager at that stage."
Broadcaster Bernadine Oliver-Kerby, who has been friends with Dalton for more than 20 years, said the former Silver Fern was held in high regard in the North Shore community.
"She was the unofficial mayor of the North Shore, I reckon. The volume of people she knew and cared about was staggering," said Oliver-Kerby.
"She was always genuinely interested in other people. She knew if you'd had a sick kid, or just got back from holiday or had a sporting trial - she would always follow up and see how it went."
Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie said the entire netball community was in shock and deeply saddened following the news.
"On behalf of the netball community, we extend our deepest sympathies to Duane [Tania's husband] and their family at this extremely difficult time," Wyllie said.
"Tania was a true competitor on the court who showed a passion and love for the game. She was respected by team-mates and opponents across world netball, and was much-loved off the court.
"She will always be in our hearts."
Thinking of Tania Dalton and her young family at this horrible time. Sending prayers, positive thoughts and love to NZ xx— Jo Harten (@Jarten) February 28, 2017
Thoughts and prays with Tania Dalton's family and friends during this horrific time. We are ALL thinking of you xx— Catherine Cox (@CathCoxy) February 28, 2017
NEWS || Former Silver Fern great Tania Dalton has sadly passed away, our thoughts are with the family at this time. pic.twitter.com/up1UiM6Kbw— Sport NZ (@SportNZ) March 1, 2017
RIP Tania Dalton My thoughts and prayers are with your family at this time x #silverfernlegend— Valerie Adams (@ValerieAdams84) March 1, 2017