New Zealand’s top female rugby player, Melita Williams, has died inexpertly at the age of 29, leaving her family, friends, and teammates ‘in shock and sorrow.’
Williams, who was a front-rower in the nation’s top grade of women’s rugby union, died in unspecified circumstances, according to a social media post on Sunday.
Williams played 15 games for Auckland’s Harbor Rugby Hibiscus in the Farah Palmer Cup between 2021 and 2023.
In August, she donned the club’s jersey, having scored her only try for the club in July last year.
Her team took to social media to commemorate her, saying she “lifted us up when we needed it the most with her energy [and] determination, always showcasing her love for the game.”
The lower-division clubs she had left an impact on while she was training also expressed sadness for her passing.
The Eden Rugby Club, for which Ms Williams played in the Lady Hawks team, said her “passing is a tremendous loss for our community.”
Eden Rugby Club wrote on their Facebook page:
“She was not only a talented and dedicated player, but also a kind, compassionate, and inspiring individual.”
The club said Williams was a formidable force on the field’.
They added that Williams’s “positive attitude, unwavering spirit, and ability to bring out the best in her teammates” also made her invaluable off the field.
“She was a shining example of what it means to be a true rugby player and a remarkable human being,” the club said.
The Ponsonby Rugby Club shared the ‘devastating news’ on its Facebook page, saying the tragedy had “left our club in shock and sorrow.”
“Melita was not only a talented player. But also a cherished member of our Ponies whanau [family],” the club’s post read.
Williams was due to be presented with a women’s blazer at a luncheon this year for playing 40 games for the Ponies.
“We are deeply saddened that she will not celebrate her wonderful achievement,” the club added.
“Rest in love, Melita. You will be sorely missed.”