Wynnum Manly Juniors player Vaea Taavale has been remembered as a humble and talented footballer, after he tragically lost his life in a car crash on Sunday.
Vaea, who played for Wynnum Manly Juniors’ reserve grade side on Saturday, passed away after the horrific incident on the Centenary Highway between Springfield and White Rock.
Described as a quiet man with a “big presence”, the 22-year-old has been remembered fondly in rugby league circles, with his BRL A grade coach Jason Harris telling Queensland Rugby League about the impact Taavale made at the club in a short time.
He came to Wynnum Manly Juniors this year from Mustangs Brothers RLFC and was on the cusp of his A grade debut.
“I personally connected with him straight away,” Harris said.
“He’s a big, big body and he had this aura about him but you knew straight away he was a respectful kid.
“His presence spoke for itself. He was quiet, humble … He had a big smile, always with a cheesy grin.
“He was quiet but his presence made him loud. The talent he had, he was going to be one that a lot of people would have taken notice of.”
Vaea was named to make his A grade debut in Rounds 1 and 2, but had to withdraw first due to injury and then family illness.
Harris said he was then relegated to reserve grade for the past few rounds, but was due to get his call up this week. He said the club would now focus on helping his teammates through the coming weeks and months, as well as reaching out to his family when the time is right.
“The words I would use for his debut is that it was a matter of when, not if,” Harris said.
“He was definitely going to do something in this competition moving forward. It’s really hard because he was there. I can honestly say he would have made it this weekend.
“The impact he made in the short amount of time is clearly showing among the playing group. They’re hurting. They’re in shock. They keep saying he was a good person, a nice kid.
“The competition will still go on so we need to make sure everyone individually is okay.
“There is no timeframe for people moving on. It’s more about making sure we’re okay first.
“Tomorrow night (Tuesday) we’re not going to train, we’re just going to get together and plan what we do moving forward. He will be with us for the rest of the year.
“We have to make sure his family and loved ones know we’re thinking of them too. It’s a sad time for all. It’s a life cut short. It’s terrible.
“We were talking every second day… it’s hard to think that it’s gone.”
Vaea’s older brother Lucky Taavale is contracted to the Brisbane Tigers’ Hostplus Cup squad and they paid tribute to Vaea on Facebook on Monday, as did his former club, Mustangs Brothers.
“The Suzuki Brisbane Tigers send their condolences to Hostplus Cup player Lucky Taavale and his family and friends on the tragic passing of younger brother Vaea on Sunday morning,” the Tigers post read.
“Vaea, 22-years young, was a notable member of the Wynnum Juniors BRL A Grade side with enormous potential.
“We also offer our condolences to the Wynnum rugby league football club and community.”
Meanwhile, Mustangs wrote the club had lost “a brother, a friend and an all-round great human in Vaea”.