The Vodafone Warriors have lost their oldest member and one of their most recognisable personalities, Edna Burnett, who has passed away a little more than two months short of her 97th birthday.
The club will honour her with a big screen tribute before tomorrow night’s seventh-round NRL encounter with St George Illawarra while the players will pay their respects by wearing black armbands.
Born on June 1, 1921, Edna became a familiar face at Mount Smart Stadium once she signed up as a member in 2001. She had also been to games after the club’s arrival in 1995.
Together with her daughter Cynthia and son Dennis, Edna was a regular not only on home game days but she was also a constant at members’ events.
She was particularly well-known for the hugs she so generously dispensed to all and sundry, especially to Vodafone Warriors players and staff.
Such was the case when she was given a 95th birthday treat in 2016, Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei presenting her with a gift and flowers before the players and staff sang happy birthday to her.
Before receiving her gifts, Edna asked Mannering: “Am I allowed to give you a hug?” And followed up to Vatuvei with: “I shouldn’t forget you, should I Manu?”
In 2013, the Burnetts joined the team, staff and other members and fans on a charter flight to Dunedin for the Vodafone Warriors’ preseason trial there against Brisbane.
Not for the first time, Edna was the subject of media interest on arrival at Dunedin Airport.
Edna told the Otago Daily Times: “I don’t know if I am the Warriors’ biggest fan but I am the oldest.”
Since news of Edna's passing current and former Vodafone Warriors have forwarded messages:
Former captain Steve Price wrote on his Facebook page: "Terribly saddened to hear the passing of this amazing angel Edna.Such a ray of sunshine every time I saw her.Sending my thoughts and prayers to the family and friends during this very sad time.Loved getting a hug.❤️RIP Edna."
Another club legend Kevin Campion sent this message: "It brought back so many memories of my time at the Warriors. Your mum was such a special lady and a great supporter of us all. I used to worry about crushing her when I hugged her."
Ex-Vodafone Warrior and now a current captain Elijah Taylor ended an interview with Sydney journalists with a message to camera: "On behalf of all the former Warriors players and coaches here, we like to send our prayers and thoughts to Edna Burnett. She's the oldest Warriors season member so from everyone here at the Wests Tigers, stay strong."
On his Facebook page, current Vodafone Warriors wing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad said: "Was a lovely lady and a proud supporter ❤️ RIP."
Ex-rugby league commentator Jason Costigan commented on the Vodafone Warriors' Facebook post: "Wonderful tribute to a 96-year-old lady who was part of the furniture at Mt Smart Stadium. In my 10 years calling the NRL there, especially on a cold Auckland night, I loved her hugs... just like the players & others associated with the club & rugby league in New Zealand. I know many of my old rugby league mates were very saddened to hear the news & to Cynthia Burnett & the rest of the family, we offer our heartfelt condolences on the loss of a dear lady who just lived for her beloved Warriors. It’s just a shame she never got to see them go all the way. Vale, Edna Burnett."
The Vodafone Warriors extend their deepest sympathies to the Burnett family.