The rugby community is mourning the loss of former Waratahs player and Samoan sevens international Kelly Meafua, who died after jumping off a bridge after a victory in France.
The 32-year-old flanker, who had played in Sydney club rugby and represented the Waratahs in the Global Tens tournament in Brisbane in 2018, was playing for Montauban, who had just celebrated a win over Narbonne on Friday (Saturday, Sydney time) in France’s Pro D2 second tier.
“Everyone at USM is in complete shock, Kelly was so well liked. We haven’t just lost a player but also a friend and brother,” the club said in a statement.
French news reports said Meafua and teammates had been celebrating Montaubaun’s victory in the final home game of the season before he jumped off the Pont-Vieux bridge into the river Tarn, from a height of more than 20 metres.
Montauban prop Christopher Vaotoa went to his teammate’s rescue but had to be rescued by firefighters and taken to hospital with hypothermia. Meafua’s body was recovered the next morning.
The Union Sportive Montauban Sapiac club website posted a tribute to Meafua.
“U.S.M. Sapiac painfully announces the death of Kelly Meafua on the night of Friday to Saturday,” the club statement said. “One of his teammates tried to rescue him, without success.
Kelly Meafua competing for the Waratahs at the 2018 Global tens tournament in Brisbane.Credit:Getty
“Transported to the hospital for hypothermia, he [Vaotoa] was released this morning in good health. All training is suspended until further notice.
“The entire U.S.M. 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 was infectious and radiant.”
Pacific Rugby Welfare stated it was “shocked and saddened to hear the news coming out of France″ and its thoughts were with the families of Meafua and Vaotoa.
The Samoan Observer reported Meafua was from the villages of Sala’ilua and Lalomauga.
He was a regular player on the sevens circuit for Samoa and played for the Greater Sydney Rams and West Harbour in Australian’s National Rugby Championship between 2014-2018.
Meafua first went to France in 2015 to play for Narbonne. The 1.88m back-rower later moved to Beziers in 2018.
A report in the Midi Libre newspaper at the time Meafua joined Beziers said the flanker grew up in Samoa and moved to Auckland at 14.
He did not start playing rugby till he joined Otahuhu at 20 but soon made the Auckland under-21 and Auckland sevens squads.
Meafua moved to Sydney to play Shute Shield club rugby for West Harbour, was named in the Greater Sydney Rams and was part of the Waratahs’ Super Rugby team’s extended training squad.
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