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Cory Heather, Beachlands Maraetai rugby player who died after tackle, remembered by family as devoted father, treasured son

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The family of a rugby player who died after being tackled at a game this week has remembered the 33-year-old as a devoted father and a treasured son with “a cheeky personality, quick wit, and zest for life”.

Cory Heather died after suffering a head knock while playing for Beachlands Maraetai against Patumāhoe at Te Puru Park on Saturday.

His partner, Rachel Hurcombe, their three children – all aged under 5 – and his mother, Donna Heather, were watching the game when the accident happened. Sister Shania Heather arrived at the ground shortly after the accident.

A Givealittle page created to support his young family has since reached over $152,000.

His family released a statement thanking those who had supported them.

“Rachel, Donna, Shania and Cory’s family would like to extend their deepest gratitude for the outpouring of love and support that has been shared in the wake of Cory’s passing.

“A loving partner to Rachel, devoted father to his three children, treasured son of Donna and brother to Shania, Troy and Aaron, Cory will be remembered for his cheeky personality, quick wit and zest for life.

“Cory lived his life to the fullest; wherever Cory was, laughter followed. We will keep his memory alive by sharing our favourite, funniest moments of him with his children, Stevie, 5, Benji, 4, and Louie, 1.”

Cory Heather died after suffering a head knock during a game between Beachlands Maraetai and Patumāhoe at Te Puru Park on Saturday.
Cory Heather died after suffering a head knock during a game between Beachlands Maraetai and Patumāhoe at Te Puru Park on Saturday.

The family also thanked the Beachlands Maraetai community who had rallied around them.

Local iwi Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki blessed the sports ground yesterday, telling 1News it was a measure of respect to Heather and his family.

Meanwhile, the organisation responsible for supporting injured rugby players and their families, the Rugby Foundation, said it was focused on Heather’s family and the two clubs involved.

“It’s a day-by-day process really of rugby taking care of its own. The New Zealand Rugby Foundation works with the club community and the family on an ongoing basis, this includes facilitation of counselling services for all concerned.”

Everyone who witnessed the match, including both teams and the referee, is reportedly seriously shaken by the incident.

Beachlands Maraetai club president James Gemmell mourned the loss of one of their senior players.

“Cory was a much-loved member of the Senior Under-85kg team, the club and wider community,” Gemmell said. “The club is heartbroken by Cory’s passing. His family, friends and teammates all have our love and support. We understand the accident will have been traumatic for many involved, including the opposition, match officials and spectators.

“We’d also like to sincerely thank the members of the community and first responders who came to Cory’s aid.”

Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.

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