The Newcastle Knights have been left reeling by the death of junior player Elijah Faalua, who died in a car accident near Cessnock on Thursday night.
Tributes have flowed on social media for the 17-year-old Faalua, played in the Knights' junior program as a winger and full-back.
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“The Newcastle Knights extend our sincere condolences to the friends and family of Harold Matthews Cup player Elijah Faalua, who tragically passed away in a motor vehicle accident on Thursday,” the NRL club said in a statement posted online.
Police said the teenager was thrown from the passenger seat of a car driven by another 17-year-old when it crashed into a barrier on a private road.
The driver was also taken to hospital with minor injuries, with the crash now subject to a police investigation.
“Inquiries are underway into a single-vehicle crash near Cessnock overnight,” NSW Police said.
“About 11.15pm (Thursday 8 April 2021), emergency services were called to a private road at Pelaw Main and found a Subaru Forrester had hit a barrier.
“A 17-year-old youth suffered critical injuries after he was thrown from the front passenger seat and died at the scene.
“The 17-year-old driver of the vehicle was taken to John Hunter Hospital with minor injuries; he’s also undergone mandatory testing.
“Officers from Hunter Valley Police District established a crime scene and have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash.
“A report will be prepared for the information of the Coroner.”
Tributes flow after death of Newcastle Knights junior Elijah Faalua
An outpouring of grief followed as news of the 17-year-old's death came to light on social media, with the league community coming together in sorrow.
"Kurri Kurri Minor Rugby League extend our sincere condolences to Eddie, Kim, family and friends of Elijah Faalua, who tragically passed away in a motor vehicle accident on Thursday," Kurri Kurri Minor Rugby League posted on Facebook.
"Such devastating news. As a Club our collective hearts break for Elijah, his family, close friends and extended Rugby League family. We have a few who were privileged enough to play alongside him, coach him or call him a mate. Our thoughts, hugs and tears are with you all." Nelson Bay Junior Rugby league wrote.
“God always takes the best! Rest easy Elijah Faalua,” one friend wrote.
“Your goofy personality and your gorgeous smile will forever be missed! You were such a big part of everyone’s lives and it’s just heartbreaking knowing you won’t be around anymore.
“My condolences go out to his beautiful family, his friends and anyone that knew him. Rest in paradise beautiful boy xx.”
Last year the league was rocked by the loss of another young player in a car accident, St George Illawarra player Stevenson Upulasi.
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