Members of the rugby league community on both sides of the Tasman are in mourning after the death of a widely-respected former New Zealand-born player in Brisbane.
Sulamai Aukuso Lavea (Sorbs) passed away from a heart attack on Saturday December 11, 2021.
Lavea was a former Otahuhu Leopards, Otara Scorpions, Auckland and Manly Sea Eagles representative.
His wife Reyna Asotasi Lavea will remain in Brisbane, unable to make it to the funeral due to Covid-19 border restrictions.
Cousin and family spokesperson Ese Tatupu says "Sorbs" passed away from a heart attack at the Springwood Conservation Park in Brisbane.
He was 48.
"For whatever reason, Sorbs decided to walk up the famously and unfortunately named 'death stairs' during fitness training and collapsed on the second level. He will be buried in New Zealand, next to his father on Wednesday."
"We grew up together in Otara, a two-minute walk from each others' house and spent a lot of time at Mayfield Park playing rugby together,'' he says.
"Sorbs Lavea should have made Junior Kiwis and played for Kiwis back in the days. Selectors were wearing the wrong glasses."
"He was the nicest guy you'll ever meet and had friends everywhere, people absolutely loved him and will miss him so much... He played with the likes of Mark Hunt and John Hopoate and was good friends with Reuben Wiki. We will be giving him a beautiful farewell."
Lavea was the beloved son of late Lavea Matai'a Faleao Evile and Segalesulu Lavea. Dearly loved brother of Maota, Evile (Jordan E), Fa'ao'o (Maxine). Adored and Loved Husband of Reyna Asotasi Lavea (Brisbane, Australia) Much loved Uncle to Aukuso Jnr, Harmony, Grace, Tapu, Sega, Damascus, George, Lili and Shelter. Cherished Grand Uncle to Kyra, Kiani, Arya-Leigh, Szn- Reign, Letitia and Taniela.
His death notice stated 'Sorbs' will be dearly missed from all his family and friends in New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, USA, Hawaii, Dubai UAE, United Kingdom and around the world. "Your memory will be in our hearts forever, We will always love you. La manuia lau malaga".
A funeral service to celebrate his life will be held on Wednesday 29th December 2021 at 11am, in the Ese Tatupu Funeral Home Chapel, 18 Norman Spencer Drive, Manukau City, Auckland, New Zealand followed by a burial in the Manukau Memorial Gardens Cemetery.
The entire service will be livestreamed on Ese Tatupu Funeral Home Facebook page and YouTube channel.