Melita Williams: New Zealand women’s rugby star, 29, dies suddenly

The sudden death of a professional New Zealand female rugby player has left her family, friends and teammates ‘in shock and sorrow’.

Melita Williams, 29, a front-rower in the nation’s top grade of women’s rugby union, died recently in unspecified circumstances, according to a social media post on Sunday.

Ms Williams played 15 games for Auckland’s Harbor Rugby Hibiscus across three seasons of the Farah Palmer Cup between 2021 and 2023.

She donned the club’s jersey for the last time as a reserve in August, having scored her only try for the club in July last year.

The team took to social media to commemorate their former prop, saying she ‘lifted us up when we needed it the most with her energy [and] determination, always showcasing her love for the game’.

The sudden death of a 29-year-old New Zealand women’s rugby union player Melita Williams (pictured) has prompted an outpouring of grief from her previous clubs

Ms Williams’ death was also felt by the lower-division clubs she had left an impact on while she was training to get to the major league.

The Eden Rugby Club, for which Ms Williams played in the Lady Hawks team, said her ‘passing is a tremendous loss for our community’.

She was part of a 10-side squad that won a Development Championship in 2016.

‘She was not only a talented and dedicated player, but also a kind, compassionate, and inspiring individual,’ read a post on the Eden Rugby Club’s Facebook page.

The club said her passion for the game was evident from the moment she arrived, combining athleticism, skill and determination to become a ‘formidable force on the field’.

While winning championships on the field, Ms Williams’ ‘positive attitude, unwavering spirit and ability to bring out the best in her teammates’ also made her invaluable off the field.

‘She was a shining example of what it means to be a true rugby player and a remarkable human being,’ the club said.

The Harbor Rugby Hibiscus team, for which Ms Williams played front-row in 15 games,  remembered her 'energy [and] determination' in a statement

The Harbor Rugby Hibiscus team, for which Ms Williams played front-row in 15 games,  remembered her ‘energy [and] determination’ in a statement

The Ponsonby Rugby Club also shared the ‘devastating news’ of Ms Williams’ death on its Facebook page, saying the tragedy had ‘left our club in shock and sorrow’.

‘Melita was not only a talented player. but also a cherished member of our Ponies whanau [family],’ the club’s post read.

Ms Williams was due to be presented with a women’s blazer at a luncheon later this week for having played 40 games for the Ponies.

‘We are deeply saddened that she will not celebrate her wonderful achievement,’ the club added.

‘Rest in love, Melita. You will be sorely missed.’

A funeral service for Ms Williams will be held in Auckland later this week.