Sonny Fai's spirit looms large in everyday life at the Vodafone Warriors, especially when the players travel to train in the sandhills at Te Henga (Bethells Beach) on Auckland's west coast.
Such was the case last Saturday.
It was an occasion more poignant than usual remembering the player seemingly destined for greatness 10 years after he disappeared in the surf in the early evening on January 4, 2009.
It was business as usual initially on Saturday as the club's wider NRL squad endured a gruelling early morning session featuring a number of stations before taking on the steepest of the climbs up the sandhills. Even then it wasn't finished, the finale being a 10-minute relay on a course up, down and along the hills.
After a debrief the players and staff headed back for breakfast before Vodafone Warriors legend Ruben Wiki m- and Fai's former team-mate – organised an appropriate and emotional end to the session, heading down to the surf with players and staff to pay respect to Vodafone Warrior #138 Sonny Fai.
There a wreath was placed at the water's edge in, hearts heavy remembering the young talent who risked and lost his life saving others.
RIP Sonny. In our hearts forever.