A "moving" haka has paid tribute to Māori All Black, Chiefs and Bay of Plenty rugby star Sean Wainui in Rotorua today.
Roughly 150 people came together to remember Wainui at Te Manawa in the city's CBD.
Wainui, 25, was killed in a single-vehicle crash about 7.50am at McLaren Falls Park, near Tauranga, on Monday.
Organiser Murray Sturt described the gathering as "teary" and "moving", with juniors from Whakarewarewa Rugby Club fronting the haka.
Framed pictures of Wainui had been placed on a nearby bench.
"It was loud, proud and it represented all our kids who looked up to the man," he said.
"You can just tell by the people that showed up today that he has really been that role model.
"I am in my 40s and I look up to him. Sean played one game here for Whaka. He is part of the family here."
Both those young and old attended, with a few familiar faces from Rotorua rugby circles present, he said.
Sturt wanted to play his part in honouring the "humble" man, with a social media post about the event garnering more than 200 shares.
He said it was a way to share love with Wainui's wife Paige, his children Kawariki and Arahia and the entire whānau.
"We are all thinking of all of them."
The haka was also for those that wouldn't be able to attend the tangihanga in Gisborne due to event number restrictions at alert level 2.
"It's a celebration. Haka is an emotion. Some people don't cry, and some people don't mourn - but some people when they haka it is an emotional release," Sturt said.
"We are just here to pay homage to a man that gave us enlightenment on the television every time he played."
This evening, a group gathered on Mount Maunganui's Main Beach to remember Wainui, with some performing a haka.
More than $200,000 has been raised for his wife Paige and their children Kawariki and Arahia through a Givealittle page.
"Sean Wainui was an incredible rugby player, father, husband and proud of his Māori heritage," the Chiefs wrote on the fundraising page.
"With the outpouring of love from the rugby world and fans both nationally and internationally, our club wanted to set up a way we can all contribute to Sean's family during this difficult time.
"Once a Chief, always a Chief," they said.
Meanwhile, close whānau and friends of the rugby star are seeking special exemption to leave Auckland to be present at his tangi, Government officials have confirmed.
Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed health officials had been approached for travel exemptions by those wanting to pay their respects to Wainui.
Bloomfield said travel exemptions include extended criteria to include wider family members.
Deputy PM Grant Robertson added that deaths during Covid and the issuing of exemptions is a "truly difficult area".
He said the advice they receive is about minimising risk and funerals are where people find it hard to stay physically distant.
He said there will always be a limit to numbers, but he said the ministry does take cultural needs into account.
"His heart goes out" to Wainui's family at this time, Robertson said.
It comes as a group of friends and whānau performed a rousing haka for Wainui's widow Paige and their children as the rugby star began his final journey home for his tangi.
Heartbroken Paige held her children close as they witnessed the spine-tingling haka.
She shared the poignant tribute to her Instagram account.
"This pain is unbearable. Kei te hoki koe ki tō whenua taurikura my baby māku koe e arahi. I know your waiting for us. We're on our way to gizzy bringing you home now baby," she wrote in the caption.
Just a few months ago, a video of Wainui teaching his 8-month-old son Kawariki to do the haka went viral.
The couple also only recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary six weeks ago. At the time, Wainui posted a loving caption about life with his best friend Paige.