WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this story contains the name and image of a deceased Indigenous person.
The national rugby league and the South Sydney Rabbitohs are mourning the loss of a grand final winning player after his sudden death this week.
Kyle Turner has died at age 31 in his home town of Coonabarabran after a stellar NRL career.
The country rugby league player shot to sporting stardom when he played for the Rabbitohs in their 2014 grand final win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
It was his maiden year in the top grade after playing for years in NRL youth teams, and he went on to play 25 games.
Tributes are flowing for the former NRL star online, with many fans expressing their shock and sadness over the “heartbreaking” news.
“Rest in peace Kyle Turner. So sad to hear he has passed away,” one woman wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
“He is a great player and a 2014 premiership winner. I met him at Eastgardens in 2016, thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
NRL fans agree Turner was “taken too soon”, with one social media user remarking that “only the good die young”.
Another person said the news of the rugby league star’s death was “terrible”.
“(He) was always one of the nicest and most welcoming guys at Souths, and someone you were genuinely happy to see win a premiership in 2014,” the person said on social media.
“Thinking of all his family and friends, along with everyone at Souths and Coonabarabran.”
Fans remembered Turner in glowing terms, calling him a “genuine bloke”, “a beautiful person” and “a humble guy”.
“He was just a genuine bloke you were happy to see doing well,” one emotional fan wrote.
“Horrible, horrible news. RIP legend.”
During his stellar sporting career, Turner represented his rural roots in the NSW Country and also played for the Indigenous All Stars.
He sustained a serious neck injury in a 2015 All Stars match and wore a neck brace from that moment on.
The backrower recovered and continued to be a regular player until 2019, when he was cut loose from the Rabbitohs after playing a total of 91 games for the side.
Turner retired at age 27 and moved back to his home town in rural NSW, where he became a teacher and continued to play for the local rugby league team.
He also continued to make appearances for the Rabbitohs Souths Cares program.
His longtime local club, the Coonabarabran Unicorns, shared a touching tribute to the late NRL player who had “offered so much” to the club.
“Kyle has a massive legacy in the football community,” the club president said on Saturday.
“A lot of juniors admired him, looked up to him, wanted to be like him.
He was such a role model for not only them, but us at the club and all of our players.”
The Unicorns announced they would retire the number 11 jumper he wore while playing for the country team.
“Kyle will be sorely missed and we think of his family today,” the club president said through tears.
Originally published as NRL mourns the sudden loss of grand final winning player