The Whanganui rugby community will come together with the family and friends of Jake Alabaster to say farewell at Cooks Gardens this afternoon.

The 24-year-old former Steelform Wanganui representative died suddenly in his sleep in the Northland town of Kaikohe last Saturday, having been working on shifting hives with good friend Dylan Pearce.

The autopsy was undertaken in Auckland, with Pearce believing Alabaster could have had a heart attack, as the eventual coroner's report will determine the cause of death - possibly a reaction from being stung.

Pearce and Alabaster's other friends brought him back to Whanganui on Tuesday.


"We went up there, some of his close mates flew over from Aussie," he said.

"We brought him home on the back of my ute. We're ready for the service."

A large turnout is expected for the memorial service, with Alabaster having been a key member of the Marist and Border rugby clubs, with many friends among the other clubs and outside of sport.

"There's plenty of people floating around," said Pearce.

Steelform Wanganui co-coach Jason Hamlin said the team will be wearing black armbands in Levin for their game against Horowhenua-Kapiti, while many of them will be at the service.

"It was discussed on Tuesday night. The boys that are attending are going in their uniforms and they'll be a standing group."

Hamlin worked with Alabaster when he was with the Marist club and remembered him as a great character.

"He was a bit of a loveable rouge, old Jake. Nobody wants to see these things."

A number of players who had been close friends and flatmates of Alabaster were in tears before kickoff in the games at Cooks Gardens last Saturday, but still went out and gave strong 80-minute performances.

"That's the prevailing thought around everybody - they wanted to put a good effort in," said Hamlin.

Having known each other for 13 years, Pearce agreed that would have been Alabaster's wish.

"Definitely, no doubt he would have wanted them to put their best foot forward, and I've not doubt they did."

The young man is survived by his mother, father, brother and sister, his nieces, his partner and her family.