Former Kiwis captain Quentin Pongia has died after an ongoing battle with cancer.
The former New Zealand test front-rower underwent surgery last November to remove a bowel tumour, following which he told nine.com.au: "I'm on the mend now and pray I can overcome this moving forward."
However, New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters confirmed to the Herald they received the news of his death today.
"He's had cancer for sometime, as most people would know, and it's just finally, unfortunately taken him," Peters said.
"He was an icon of the game, a great bloke and a fearless player. He had a huge identity in the game during his playing career and it's just really tragic to see cancer take another great man way too early."
The relentless prop, who hailed from the West Coast, played 137 NRL games and 35 tests for the Kiwis during a 13-year career in which he forged a reputation as one of the game's most feared players.
Arriving in the NRL in 1993 as part of a star-studded Canberra Raiders outfit, he quickly made a name for himself with his style of play.
He went on to win the premiership with the club a year later, and remained with the club through to the end of 1997 before stints with the Warriors, Roosters, Dragons and Wigan.
Current Canberra coach and Pongia's former teammate Ricky Stuart expressed his condolences on behalf of the team, who released a statement on their website.
"Like a number of players who played with him, I have nothing but respect and a wonderful friendship with Quentin and although it saddens me to hear of the news, it comforts me to know he has no pain now.
"Quentin is the toughest individual I have ever played with and I know how hard he fought to beat this terrible disease. He will be sorely missed right across the rugby league community."
After his time with the Raiders, Pongia returned home to New Zealand to join the Warriors in 1998, playing 18 matches before leaving to join the Roosters the following season. He went on to play for the Dragons in 2003, before joining Wigin the same year.
He was forced to retire from the sport in 2004 while signed with Wigan when it was discovered that he suffered from the contagious blood disorder hepatitis B.
His involvement in the NRL didn't end when his playing days finished, though. In 2017 he joined the Manly Sea Eagles as the club's wellbeing officer. He had been unable to work after his surgery last year and returned home to the West Coast to be with family, but remained in his role with the Sydney club.
The Warriors recently announced rugby league ambassador Sir Peter Leitch would be hosting a luncheon to support Pongia with league fans, some of Pongia's former teammates and other celebrities set to gather for the event at the Ellerslie Event Centre on June 7.
The Warriors aren't the only club in the NRL who have raised funds to help Pongia. Earlier in the year they joined the Sea Eagles and Raiders in donating items to an auction held to support Pongia and his family.