Members of the rugby fraternity joined mourners at Te Wainui Marae near Gisborne on Friday for Sean Wainui’s tangi.
Former Black Ferns captain and New Zealand Rugby board member Dr Farah Palmer said the Māori All Blacks kaumātua told her “Sean made the Māori All Blacks, more Māori.”
“He was just genuine a stickler for karakia before kai, he made all the players step up when it came to doing the haka and any tikanga stuff.”
Former All Black Hosea Gear recalled how he sent Wainui a message when he became coach of Ngāti Porou/East Coast.
“I said cuzzy I got a jersey for you and he said he was keen and I said 'yeah mean, in there', so he obviously won’t get the chance to wear it but we'll wear it for him.”
The team performed a haka at the marae in Wainui's honour.
“I suppose part of our haka to him was to welcome him into our team and that now he is part of us and we want him to follow our journey be part of our journey.”
Scott Robertson was there as a representative of the Crusaders. He remembered the big smile, the dreads, the hongis and the way Wainui expressed himself, both on and off the field.
“He brought on this great character that had a bit of flair but also a real sincere heart with him. He cared deeply about a lot of people and the game of rugby.”
The 25-year-old will be buried on Sunday.