The rugby community in Samoa and New Zealand is mourning the loss of former Manu Samoa and All Black forward, Tiumalumanaia Dylan Mika.
Described as a “warm, wonderful” and a “gentle giant” by families and friends, Tiumalu collapsed and died from a “suspected heart attack” at his home in Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday.
He was 45.
The family confirmed Tiumalu’s death in a statement they issued the New Zealand media on Tuesday night.
"It is with great sadness that the family of Dylan announce that he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly [on] Tuesday, March 20,” the statement reads.
"Dylan was a very much loved husband and father to Tracy and their daughter Marley, and dearly loved son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend.
"He was a hugely talented athlete, well-respected in the Samoan community and abroad but just as importantly, to his friends and family a warm, wonderful, and caring man.
"Gone far too soon at the age of just 45."
Tiumalu played two tests for Samoaafter serving a three-year stand-down period from when he was playing for the All Blacks.
He played seven tests for the All Blacks, including two against Italy and South Africa at the 1999 World Cup.
According to the NZ Herald, Tiumalu, who had diabetes, was a popular figure who cared deeply for Auckland and Samoan rugby.
He was also vice president of the New Zealand Barbarians club and an active committee member, working hard in the schools area.
Tiumalu played over 50 matches for Auckland from 1994-2000, a time when he competed with Jones, Zinzan Brooke, Charles Riechelmann, Mark Carter and Andrew Blowers.
Tiumalu was a regular visitor to Samoa, the last time bringing a group tour during the Manu Samoa and Wales test match at Apia Park.