Nicholas Tooth was playing for Quirindi Lions when he collapsed after making a tackle in a match against the Narrabri Blue Boars at Quirindi Rugby Park in the mid-north of the state.
The 25-year-old was treated at the scene before being airlifted to John Hunter hospital in Newcastle. He died on Sunday, police said.
The president of the Quirindi Lions football club, Charles Murray, told the ABC that Tooth, originally from Wallabadah in New England, was back in his home region on a visit from Sydney for the weekend.
“It really was just a tragic accident, Nick went in to tackle an opponent and his head clashed with [the opponent’s] shoulder and he went down,” Murray said. “There was no foul play, nothing untoward about it at all, sadly it was just a very tragic accident.
“I’d seen him grow up from a child through junior rugby and grow into a young man, he was a lovely kid, he had a bit of a larrikin spirit in him,” he said. “He was a really good bloke and very popular, and his family for generations have been great rugby supporters in this district and great community people.”
The club posted a message on their Facebook page offering their condolences to the Tooth family. “The loss of this kind-hearted and fine young man will be felt far and wide,” the post read. “The club would like to offer their support to everyone who has been touched by this tragic loss.”
The chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union, Bill Pulver, paid tribute to Tooth, an agricultural economics student at Sydney University. “The passing of one of our young country rugby players over the weekend is incredibly sad and is a loss that is felt by the entire Australian rugby community.
“We send our thoughts and sincere condolences to Nick’s family, friends, team-mates and members of the Quirindi Rugby and broader community. I’d like to thank those who helped at the scene on Saturday and we’ll ensure we provide whatever support we can for Nick’s family and club at this challenging time.”
Nick Farr-Jones, the NSW Rugby Union chairman, also offered support. “On behalf of the NSW rugby community, I would like to offer our sincere condolences and support to the family and friends of Nick Tooth, and to the rugby community of Quirindi and the Central-North region. We will be providing ongoing assistance to Nick’s family and rugby club during this difficult time.”
The ABC reported that the incident was not being treated as suspicious, and a coroner’s report was being prepared.
This article was written by Guardian sport, for theguardian.com on Monday 20th April 2015 06.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010