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'One of our tallest trees has fallen': All Blacks' heartbreaking tribute after Super Rugby star dies in car crash

(Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)
18th October, 2021
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2097 Reads

Chiefs, Bay of Plenty and Māori All Blacks player Sean Wainui, a father of two, has died in a car crash in Omanawa, New Zealand.

A media report confirmed via a family member that Wainui was the sole occupant of a car that crashed into a tree early Monday morning.

Wainui played 53 games for Taranaki before shifting to Bay of Plenty this year. He also played 44 games for the Chiefs, nine for the Crusaders and represented New Zealand Māori since 2015.

“Attention! Attention! One of Rugby New Zealand’s tallest totara trees has fallen in the world of rugby,” said the All Blacks on Instagram.

“To you Sean, our Rangatira, we farewell you to the outspread arms of the multitudes who await you beyond this earthly realm. You leave us here bereft and drown in sorrow as we weep for you. Rest well in peaceful repose.”

In June, Wainui scored five tries in a Super Rugby Trans Tasman victory over the Waratahs, the first player to ever do so in Super Rugby history.

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“From playing against him, he was someone that always wore his heart on his sleeve,” said Wallabies prop Allan Alaalatoa.

“Watching him lead the Maori haka, he was someone that had a lot of passion and pride in his Maori heritage. It is a tragic loss for the rugby world, but also the Wainui family. So we’re sending out love in regards to them.”

“Our thoughts are with Sean and his whānau [family], particularly Paige, Kawariki and Arahia, and we offer them our full support at what is the most difficult of times,” New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said.

“We know Sean’s passing will be felt deeply by everyone involved in rugby, particularly his Bay of Plenty and Chiefs teammates, and we share their sorrow and their shock.”

New Zealand Māori Rugby Board Chair Farah Palmer said “today rugby is mourning one of our Rangatira, but our first thoughts are with Sean’s whānau. They have lost a father, a husband, a brother and a son and we share their grief and their tears.”

“As a player we all saw what this young tāne was capable of and the passion and talent that he brought to the teams he represented, but we also saw a role model for young Māori, a caring father who was passionate about his culture, his language, and his identity. He will be sorely missed.”

Maori All Blacks, Chiefs and former Bay of Plenty Head Coach Clayton McMillan paid tribute to Wainui on a heartbreaking day for rugby.

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“Sean was an incredibly talented individual and held a great amount of mana among his fellow teammates and the wider rugby community,” McMillan said.

“He epitomised everything you could possibly ask for in a player. He will be remembered for being a passionate, hard-working, proud Maori who was an exceptional player but more importantly father and husband.

“He was an influential member in the teams he has been a part of, and his presence will be missed. Our sincere condolences to Paige, Kawariki and Arahia and his wider whanau at this difficult time. We are offering them our full support along with our players and staff.”

Tributes also came in from fans and fellow players including Sonny Bill Williams.

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