The rugby world is in mourning following the tragic death of former Waratahs squad member Kelly Meafua in France over the weekend.
Meafua, who played for the Waratahs at the Global Tens tournament in 2018, died after reportedly jumping off a bridge while celebrating a win for his club team in France. He was 32.
Reports surfaced in France that the back-row forward was celebrating his victory over Narbonne with teammates on Saturday AEST, before he jumped more than 20 from the Pont Vieux bridge into the Tarn river.
His death is not being treated as suspicious.Montauban prop Christopher Vaotoa reportedly went to Meafua’s aid but had to be rescued by firefighters and was taken to hospital with hypothermia.
Meafua’s body was recovered the following morning.
“Everyone at USM (Union Sportive Montauban) is in complete shock, Kelly was so well liked,” the club said in a statement.
Montauban also posted a tribute to Meafua on its website.
“USM Sapiac painfully announces the death of Kelly Meafua on the night of Friday to Saturday. One of his teammates tried to rescue him, without success.
“Transported to the hospital for hypothermia, he (Vaotoa) was released this morning in good health. All training is suspended until further notice.
“The entire USM Sapiac club is shocked by this tragedy, and has a thought for his wife, his children, his teammates, and more generally, all club lovers.
“Kelly was a player very appreciated by all, his joie de vivre (zest for life) was infectious and radiant.”
The Waratahs also took to social media to express their sadness.
“We are shocked and saddened by the news coming out of France today. Our thoughts are with the Meafua family.”
His Shute Shield club West Harbour added: “Kelly played for the Pirates for many years and was renowned for his hard hitting abrasive play. Jelly was a former winner of the Shield Shield rookie of the year and spent time at the Waratahs before forging a successful career in France. RIP Uso.”
A former flanker, Meafua was a late comer to rugby.
He did not start playing until he was 20, but the New Zealand-born forward quickly made an instant impression and was included in the Auckland under-21 and sevens squads.
After moving to Sydney, Meafua played for the Greater Sydney Rams in the now defunct National Rugby Championship.
The 188cm forward was runner-up in 2018 for the prodigious Ken Catchpole Medal after starring for the Pirates in Sydney’s premier club rugby competition.
Meafua also featured for Samoa in sevens.
He played 24 matches for Montauban this season, scoring eight tries.