Northland Rugby League player Mike Salase dies playing the game he loved

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Michael Salase died after collapsing on the pitch while playing rugby on Saturday. Photo / Facebook page Northern Swords Rugby League

Northland Rugby League player Mike Salase died on Saturday while playing the game.

Police said they were told at 3:40 p.m. yesterday that a person suffered a medical event while playing in the championship in Broadwood, Northland.

“CPR was undertaken at the scene, but unfortunately the person could not be resuscitated,” a police spokesperson said.

The players formed a barrier to give Salase privacy as emergency services scrambled to revive him.

Salase was a mainstay of the league in Northland and a member of several Northern Swords senior men's teams.  Photo / Supplied
Salase was a mainstay of the league in Northland and a member of several Northern Swords senior men’s teams. Photo / Supplied

Northern Swords Rugby Club said it was with “deep regret and sadness” when they published Salase’s passing while “playing the game he loved”.

“Like many of our rugby league whānau in Northland, we are extremely shocked by this news and our sincere condolences go out to whānau and Mike’s friends at this time,” the post said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are also with Hikurangi Stags and Pawarenga Broncos whanaunga who were with him in his last moments.”

The club have described Salase as a mainstay of the league in Northland and a member of several Northern Swords senior men’s teams, including the 2020 squad which won the national championship last year.

“All of us here at Rugby League Northland and Northern Swords, your brother’s cheeky smile will be missed,” the club added.

Tributes and messages of condolence pour in from friends and family.

Salase’s mother Denise Salase wrote: “I will miss my boy forever, I can’t believe you are gone but in my heart I know you are with your dad and that is the only thing that keeps me going. give peace.

“I love you my son, I miss you my heart.”

He was the son of Vili Salase, also a famous league player in his time.

Teejay Williams said Salase is an incredible player who will be missed.

“A man I’ll never meet directly. His shoulders were designed to knock guys out,” Williams wrote.

Caleb Tana said they started playing against the seniors the same year and Salase was a lovely person off the pitch as well.

The Hikurangi Stags described Salase as a “true legend of the game and a legend of a man”.

“Michael [was] calm and humble by nature and was the most feared defenseman in the Northland rugby league for the past 15-20 years, and also a great runner with the ball in hand, ”he said.

Salase played the majority of his football for the Portland Panthers, according to the Stags, while spending time at the Otangarei Knights, Horahora Broncos and Hikurangi Stags.

The Pawarenga Broncos gave a “big mihi” to those who worked tirelessly to try to revive him and to those who formed a barrier to ensure his privacy during the incident.

“This is something you never believe will happen and we feel very deeply all those affected by the death of the great sportsman,” he said.

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