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No sign rugby player suffered fatal injury

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/09/2016

Willie Halaifonua © Facebook/RIP Willie Halaifonua Willie Halaifonua There was nothing to suggest during 80 minutes of rugby that a North Harbour club player had suffered a fatal head injury and could have been pulled off the field early, a coroner's findings say.

Corner Brandt Shortland has released his findings into the 2013 death of Viliami (Willie) Alamoni Halaifonua.

The fit and healthy 27-year-old had played lock for premier club side Takapuna against Massey and collapsed as the two sides shook hands after the match.

He died from his brain injury in hospital three days later.

It was not clear from video footage and talking to players and witnesses when he suffered the head injury, Mr Shortland said.

The only obvious point when the injury could have happened was a few minutes before fulltime when he ran the ball up and his clash with a Massey player left him semi-conscious on the ground, Mr Shortland said.

However, he got straight to his feet and played on.

"Mr Halaifonua appeared to be fine and unfazed by the clash."

The inquest heard evidence from New Zealand Rugby's medical director Ian Murphy and Mr Shortland noted NZR, with help from ACC, was now leading the way with an education programme aimed at making everybody in rugby proactive in keeping players as safe as possible.

Mr Shortland said rugby involved heavy collisions.

"It is inevitable that players will sustain injury ... it is an expected consequence of playing this sport."

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