Just as he did 53 times for the Blues, Kurtis Haiu battled to the end. But today he could fight no more and the 31-year-old, who also played 76 games for Auckland, died from the bone cancer he contracted in 2011.

His former Auckland and Blues teammates were devastated, despite the inevitability of the outcome, to hear of Haiu's death.

Between 2006 and 2010, Haiu was an integral part of the city's rugby landscape. He, alongside the likes of Jerome Kaino, Isaia Toeava and Isa Nacewa emerged in the mid 2000s, and were seen as having the potential to rebuild the Blues whose last championship had come in 2003.

Winning the NPC title with Auckland in 2007 built confidence a great era was coming for the Blues, but many of the side unexpectedly left after the World Cup and the momentum faltered.


Still, despite the team's struggles, Haiu still brought the muscularity and mobility on which both Auckland and the Blues were trying to build their game and his physicality and athleticism won him the respect of opponents and peers.

Kaino was one of those peers who never lost touch with his old friend and said: "Kurtis loved his girls so much and our love and prayers go out to them and the Haiu family.

Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave interviews Ant Strachan on the death of Kurtis Haiu

"Kurtis fought such a brave battle to be with them for as long as he could, which was typical of his character. I loved playing footy with Kurtis and I will treasure those memories of my Blues brother and pray that he rests in peace."

Diagnosed with the rare Ewings Sarcoma, Haiu tried everything to beat the disease. After an initial bought of chemotherapy that left him reeling from the side effects he looked into alternative medicines which saw him have surgery and even fly to Switzerland for treatment.

In the end, nothing he tried was able to hold the disease back. Another of his former Auckland and Blues teammates, Onosai Auva'a, said: "Our love and support goes out to his two young beautiful daughters Aaliyah and Sienna, his wife Frieda and the Haiu family."

"Kurtis simply refused to accept his illness which was probably why he continued to battle his disease for so long and we pray that he is now able to rest in peace."