Wakefield in shock as Watene dies, aged 31

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The Independent Online

Adam Watene, the Wakefield prop, collapsed and died at the age of 31 yesterday during a training session in the club's gymnasium. The popular front-rower died after starting a weights session, but the club gave few details when it announced the news on its website yesterday afternoon.

"The Wakefield Trinity Wildcats are sad to announce the sudden passing of Adam Watene," it said. "The circumstances surrounding Adam's death were sudden and unexpected." Watene leaves a wife and two children with whom he had just returned from a holiday in Miami.

"He was keen to get into the gym after his holiday and throw a few weights around," said his coach, John Kear. Watene was working with a small group of players when he complained of feeling dizzy and collapsed. "There was a nurse and a fireman in the gym at the time," said Kear. "They did what they could, but it was no good. We're all absolutely stunned."

Watene, a Cook Island international first came to Britain in 2005 after playing in Australia and helped Castleford to promotion. He joined Bradford the following year, but never established himself in the first team and stayed only one season before moving to Wakefield.

He had an outstanding season as Wakefield avoided relegation in 2007, but missed part of this year after he was given compassionate leave following his father's death in New Zealand. He also broke his cheekbone after his return in June and was out for two months, during which the Wildcats did not win a game. He was under contract to the club for next season.

The Rugby League has paid tribute to the player. "Adam served a number of clubs with distinction during his career and we are shocked and saddened to hear of his sudden and unexpected death," said its chief executive, Nigel Wood.

Apart from his playing prowess, Watene achieved another sort of celebrity in Wakefield when he was named as consort to the city's deputy mayor, Heather Hudson, earlier this year. "We are all devastated," she said. "He was a close family friend and I was proud to have him as my consort."

His brother, Frank, who once played alongside him for Castleford, is now with Halifax.

Deaths of current players at training have been mercifully rare, but two players at Rochdale Hornets – Karl Marriott and Roy Powell – collapsed and died after training in separate tragedies in the late 1990s. The Doncaster coach, St John Ellis, died at training in 2005.