A “moving” haka has paid tribute to Māori All Black, Chiefs and Bay of Plenty rugby star Sean Wainui in Rotorua today.
Roughly 150 people came together to remember Wainui at Te Manawa in the city’s CBD.
Wainui, 25, was killed in a single-vehicle crash about 7.50am at McLaren Falls Park, near Tauranga, on Monday.
Organiser Murray Sturt described the gathering as “teary” and “moving”, with juniors from Whakarewarewa Rugby Club fronting the haka.
Framed pictures of Wainui had been placed on a nearby bench.
Wainui died at age 25. Photo / Getty Images
“It was loud, proud and it represented all our kids who looked up to the man,” he said.
“You can just tell by the people that showed up today that he has really been that role model.”
“I am in my 40s and I look up to him. Sean played one game here for Whaka. He is part of the family here.”
Both those young and old attended, with a few familiar faces from Rotorua rugby circles present, he said.
Sturt wanted to play his part in honouring the “humble” man, with a social media post about the event garnering more than 200 shares.
He said it was a way to share love with Wainui’s wife Paige, his children Kawariki and Arahia and the entire whānau.
“We are all thinking of all of them.”
The haka took place on Thursday at Te Manawa in Rotorua's CBD. Photo / Andrew Warner
The haka was also for those that wouldn’t be able to attend the tangihanga in Gisborne due to event number restrictions at alert level 2.
“It’s a celebration. Haka is an emotion. Some people don’t cry, and some people don’t mourn – but some people when they haka it is an emotional release.” Sturt said.
“We are just here to pay homage to a man that gave us enlightenment on the television every time he played.”
More than $200,000 has been raised for his wife Paige and their children Kawariki and Arahia through a Givealittle page.
“Sean Wainui was an incredible rugby player, father, husband and proud of his Māori heritage,” the Chiefs wrote on the fundraising page.
“With the outpouring of love from the rugby world and fans both nationally and internationally, our club wanted to set up a way we can all contribute to Sean’s family during this difficult time.
“Once a Chief, always a Chief,” they said.
Meanwhile, a group of friends and whānau have performed a rousing haka for the widow and children of Wainui as the rugby star began his final journey home for his tangi.
Wainui’s heartbroken wife Paige held her children close as they witnessed the spine-tingling haka.
She shared the poignant tribute to her Instagram account.
“This pain is unbearable. Kei te hoki koe ki tō whenua taurikura my baby māku koe e arahi. I know your waiting for us. We’re on our way to gizzy bringing you home now baby,” she wrote in the caption.
The young couple had just recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary.
Paige watched the haka while holding on to the couple’s two children, Kawariki and Arahia.
Just a few months ago, a video of Wainui teaching his 8-month-old son Kawariki to do the haka went viral.
The couple had celebrated their first wedding anniversary just six weeks ago. At the time, Wainui posted a loving caption about life with his best friend Paige.