The only goal of a player who died during an East Coast rugby club's celebratory centennial match today was to score a try, he told his teammates during a party last night.
The player collapsed during the match between Ruatoria City's 2022 squad and a Ruatoria Centennial XV.
He was well known around the East Coast, a source told the Herald and told mates all he wanted to do was to score a try during today's game.
However, he collapsed before he even got to touch the ball, as he was approaching the first ruck, a spectator said.
"It was all about celebrating 100 years of one of the country's smallest clubs and one of the fellas who came back up here to play in what was supposed to be a festival game and unfortunately never managed to walk off."
Despite an hour and a half of extensive efforts to save the player, he was pronounced dead at the scene with the match abandoned and a karakia sung as his body was removed from the pitch.
A spectator said players remained around their mate's body, as they took turns to pay their respects.
The ground was blessed and union officials spoke to the man's whānau before a decision was made to play the Lochore Cup final this afternoon.
Union officials later confirmed the clash would go ahead as scheduled, despite the death.
After a minute's silence prior to the match, Ngāti Porou East Coast beat the Mid Canterbury team 20-25.
Leeroy Kururangi, chief executive for Ngāti Porou East Coast, said the death was very sad and unexpected, and his heart went out to the whānau.
"It did put us off our game a little, we played a little bit for him, but mostly for ourselves."
Following the game, Ngāti Porou East Coast players and management broke out in a haka to honour their fallen brother. More than 100 fans joined in, with ages ranging from elders in their 70s through to young kids, a spectator said.
"It's going to be a big night on the East Coast, there are people crying tears of happiness and people who are crying tears of sorrow," the spectator said.
"Everyone here us saying we're gonna celebrate big tonight, celebrate the final win, and celebrate a really good bugga's life."