Auckland man's double death blow
Just two weeks after his son was killed in a car crash in Waikato, Graeme Jackson was dealt another blow last night when he watched a rugby mate drop dead on a field just south of Auckland.
Jackson's son Liam, 18, was one of three men who died when the car they were in collided with a tree in Hamilton on June 29.
Last night Jackson, the Drury and Districts Rugby Football Club president, was playing an in-house derby with two Drury seniors sides when a player dropped dead.
Villiame Tavalea was well away from the ball when he suddenly collapsed and went into seizures.
Fellow players rushed to his aid and performed CPR while an ambulance was called to the Drury rugby field, but they were unable to save him.
The teams had just had their club photos taken minutes before they started playing, Jackson said.
Club captain Peter Helg paid tribute to Tavalea, who had joined the club from Tonga three years ago.
"He had a heart of gold, he was well liked by everyone," Helg said.
The club was deeply shocked by the tragedy. A blessing of the field and clubrooms was held this morning.
But it is the second tragedy which has struck the town's rugby community in just two weeks.
A joint funeral was held last week for Graeme Jackson's son Liam and his two friends Alan Jones, 18, and Ashley Foley, 19.
Jones and Jackson both played rugby for the Bombay Under 21 team, which was today to play its first game since the crash.
The former Rosehill High School students were driving home to Auckland in the early hours on June 29 when their Nissan Sentra left a road in Gordonton and hit a tree about 5am, Waikato road policing manager inspector Leo Tooman said.
A fourth passenger, Pukekohe man Jaryd Doughty, 19, remains in a stable condition in Waikato Hospital's high dependency unit.
Rugby coach Kerry Petrie had high praise for the young men.
He said Alan was "a devastating attacking player".
"He did some individual stuff that was absolutely brilliant - he was an aggressive runner and scored some outstanding individual tries, just through his ability to run around people and fend people off,"Petrie said
Liam, an outside back, was more instinctive in style, the coach said.
"He definitely had an eye for identifying space and had very good balance."
Both were "larrikins" and Liam in particular was "a breath of fresh air", Petrie said.
When things got tense during a tight game "he'd come out with something really stupid and lighten the whole atmosphere. That was just him. Alan was more of a quiet bloke who just did his job - I know both were in line, especially Alan, for higher honours this year in local rugby."
All four boys in the car were best mates and fellow victim Ashley and the sole survivor of the accident Jaryd Doughty, were often to be seen cheering from the sidelines.
Jackson family spokesman Arthur Keane, Liam's uncle, said the grief for all the parents was "still very raw".
"There are three families that are really, really grieving."
The families wanted their boys remembered as "the fun-loving, likeable chaps that they were", Keane said.
Police have yet to rule officially on what caused the crash, but the families believed Liam, who was driving back early to get to work, likely fell asleep at the wheel.
Around 1500 friends and family packed Rosehill College's school hall on July 5 to farewell the friends.