Gala Rugby Club has paid tribute to a former player, Willie Collins, who has died in a diving accident in his native New Zealand.
The death of Mr Collins, a cousin of the All Blacks legend Jerry Collins, who himself was killed earlier this year in a French road smash along with his wife, was reported in the New Zealand media this week.
Mr Collins, a centre who turned out for the senior Gala rugby side in 16 matches in 2004-05, was on a diving trip with friends on Wellington’s south coast at the weekend.
And it was on Sunday afternoon that police were called to Shark Tooth Point in Lyall Bay after reports that a diver had gone missing.
Mr Collins’ body was pulled from the water by emergency services personnel around 5.30pm but despite attempts to save him, they were unable to revive the personal trainer and fitness expert, and he died at the scene.
Mr Collins scored five tries for Gala and current Scotland under-20 and Melrose head coach John Dalziel, who played with the popular Kiwi during his spell in Scottish rugby, took to Twitter to say: “RIP Willie, really Sad news a great guy and an outstanding player, was a pleasure to play with, taken far too soon.”
A message on Gala RFC’s website said: “It is with sadness that Gala RFC announce the untimely death of Willie Collins in New Zealand.
“Willie played with us back in the early 2000s. Our thoughts and condolences go to his family and friends.”
There was also an outpouring of tributes to Collins online, including that of Ngati Porou East Coast Rugby Football Union.
According to his family, Mr Collins, known as Tou, was born in 1976, and described as a strong man who helped guide his clients.
Mr Collins spent parts of his childhood in Auckland and Taupo, as well as Wellington.
Family member Reetah Collins posted:“Brother you were supposed to wait for me. You were my pride and I knew you were the strong one now you’ve left me and I’m too far from you. I love you bro Willie Collins will miss you.”
Ngati Porou East Coast Rugby Union also paid homage online: “Another Wellington Rugby legend gone to soon. A man making a difference in people’s lives.”
Mr Collins had been in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years, according to his own Limitless Fitness website.
Apart from playing rugby for both Petone and Ngati Porou East Coast, Mr Collins had played rugby league and sevens and was also a keen boxer who turned professional in 2010.
Petone Rugby Club said the Collins family had long been “stalwarts” at the club. Mr Collins’ funeral was scheduled to be held on Christmas Eve.