IT was a phone call Hamilton back-rower Va Talaileva will never forget and one he hopes is never repeated.
Talaileva was at his Blacksmiths home early on Sunday morning when Hawks teammate Tuieti Asi rang to say there had been an accident.
In an instant, Talaileva and his wife, Stevie, were in the car and on their way.
They were about halfway to the scene when Asi rang back to deliver the numbing news that Tevita Maile had died.
‘‘I didn’t think it was that bad and then we got the second phone call,’’ Talaileva said. ‘‘It rocked me. When we got there it was shocking.’’
Four Hawks were involved in the accident. Steve Sione, 21, was the driver of the car.
Tyson Watene, 20, who was discharged from hospital on Thursday, was in the back seat with Asi, 20, and Maile, 22.
Sione’s girlfriend, Bridgette Su’a, 19, was a passenger in the front. Police indicated fatigue and wet weather had been factors in the accident.
Almost since he arrived at Hamilton in 2007, Talaileva, 31, has been a father figure to the young Polynesian players who come from New Zealand to play with the Hawks.
They work together at club sponsor Hunter Industrial Ceramics and Talaileva has taken them under his wing.
He and his family were very close to Maile.
‘‘It has been tough, really tough, especially for my missus and our two boys,’’ he said.
Typically, Talaileva, along with coach Scott Coleman and president Brett Sutherland, have held the club together this week in its darkest hour.
Talaileva has liaised with Maile’s family, who flew to Newcastle this week, and has been a great support to Sione, Asi and Watene.
‘‘With the club and a few of our close friends, we had a chat at Steve’s house and I told them to keep their heads up.
‘‘Our main focus now is to stay positive and stick by Steve, make sure he is OK, emotionally more than anything.
‘‘Hopefully he can get back to work next week and get in a routine.’’
Talaileva’s focus turns to rugby today. He is the only Newcastle player in the Country Gold squad to take on Sydney at Concord Oval.
Country Gold, which is comprised mainly of Sydney-based players, have not beaten Sydney in 22 years. Maile had been organising a minibus for Talaileva’s friends to travel to the match.
‘‘My head has been down, but I thought I want to do this for him,’’ Talaileva said.
‘‘I spoke to the Country coach and they have organised a minute’s silence before the game and the boys are going to wear black armbands in honour of Tevita.’’
Talaileva will play from the bench today.
In his first Cockatoos campaign, he was man of the match in the 23-20 win over Queensland Country in Rockhampton.
He was strong in the return match in Cowra, won 60-3 by the Cockatoos, but had to withdraw from the final game, a 27-22 loss to Sydney Sub-Districts last weekend, because of work commitments.
He trained with the Gold squad at Coogee on Thursday.
‘‘I thought after missing the last game that was it,’’ Talaileva said. ‘‘When they told me I was in the Gold squad, I didn’t know what to say.
‘‘I didn’t expect it. It was pretty awesome training with the big boys from Sydney.’’
A memorial service for Maile will be held at St Columbans Church, Mayfield, on Monday. It will be followed by a get-together at the Croatian Club, next to Passmore Oval.