Rugby League

New Zealand Warriors in touch with family over rising star Tala Mailei's death

New Zealand Warriors managing director Jim Doyle said on Monday the club was in constant communication with the family of Tala Mailei after the 17-year-old rising star was found dead in Christchurch on Sunday.

"We're talking to them on a regular basis to keep working through and finding out more and more details all the time and looking at what we can do," Doyle said. "Once we find out exactly when things are, we'll have representatives (in Christchurch) from the club to deal with the appropriate people.

"It's not our place to be talking about what happened and how it happened."

Mailei had been training with the Warriors' wider under-20 squad since last month after impressing coaching staff at the club's annual open NYC trial in Auckland in October.

"Tala had impressed our staff and was set to be part of our NYC squad in 2016," Doyle said on Sunday. "We're in shock. This is dreadful for Tala's family and also for all of us at the club." Mailei's former principal can still remember the first time he met the "strapping young man" who "created sunshine wherever he went".

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He was home for the Christmas break and was due to resume training with the squad in the new year. Mailei went to Aranui High School for one year. His principal there, John Rohs, said he could still remember the first day they met.

"I just happened to see this strapping young man come up to the front counter and I was curious to know who he was.

"I went out and he introduced himself to me and I was just impressed with him from the very first moment I met him."

Rohs said the school was "absolutely gutted" by Mailei's death. "That young man just created sunshine wherever he went, just everything he touched, every relationship, he was just a hugely positive, encouraging young man."

Mailei had been a member of Aranui's rugby league academy. He played for the school at the New Zealand Rugby League national secondary schools' tournament this year. The academy's Facebook page contained several updates on his progress.

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