Jordan Kemp was playing a senior reserves game when the
A fatal rugby injury has devastated a New Zealand family,
sent shockwaves through a tight-knit Northland community and
re-emphasised risks associated with the national game.
Otamatea Hawks hooker Jordan Kemp, 17, died yesterday
afternoon after a suspected head clash during a Whangarei
club rugby game on Saturday.
He was airlifted to Auckland City Hospital where his large
network of friends and family were keeping vigil and waiting
for relatives - including his older brother Joseph, who has
cerebral palsy, and maternal grandparents - to arrive from
They did not make it in time to say goodbye.
Jordan, the triplet brother of Crishla and Michaela and son
of Tania Cook and Aaron Kemp, was playing in the senior
reserves game against Old Boys Marist when the injury
occurred about 15 minutes before the final whistle.
Jordan's aunt Karina Cook said 10 relatives from Brisbane
were due to arrive in Auckland shortly before midnight last
night and planned to head straight to the hospital.
"They were turning the machines off just before midnight so
the grandparents from here can see him before they switch
But Jordan died at 3.45pm, his sister Crishla announced in an
emotional social media statement.
"The moment god took you from me ... is the moment he took a
part of me too," she said. "In the end your with us in sprit
my bro I know you'll always be watching over us and I love
you soooooo much you have no idea my bro [sic]."
Ms Cook said the family was left "in pain and continuous
tears". It was especially difficult for Crishla, who was at
the game and travelled with her brother to hospital.
"She is broken ... she doesn't want to leave her brother.
They are not in the right frame of mind, which is
understandable because they came into this world as three."
Her nephew was popular and loved playing rugby, she said.
"It's just his rugby, rugby and being with his siblings. He's
a very humble boy, gentle, kind-hearted - a gentle giant."
Jordan lived in Maungaturoto and had attended Auckland
Grammar, where he played for the First XV.
It was understood he had recently left school to start
Northland Rugby Union chief executive Jeremy Parkinson said
representatives of the club had been with the family all day,
and had offered counselling to them as well as team members
and members of the opposing team.
"[On Saturday] afternoon there was a young, fit 17-year-old
playing rugby and today he is not with us ... that's hugely
He said Jordan was from a well-known rugby family - his
grandfather, Russell Kemp, is a prominent coach - and had "a
passion for life and for rugby".
Otamatea club president Kevin Robinson said it was unclear
how the clash happened, but he believed it was in "general
play", not from a tackle or scrum.
The teen fell down, but made it to his feet before
"staggering around" and falling over again, he said.
Mr Parkinson said the club had been working hard to address
the issue of head injuries, and had been working with
Northland MP Mike Sabin and his son Darryl who lives with the
ongoing complications of a rugby accident in 2009.
In February, Northland Rugby implemented a "blue-card"
system, giving referees the ability to order concussed
players from the field for a minimum of three weeks.
They are required to consult a doctor before returning to
Jordan had been blue-carded at the start of the season, had
four weeks off and had been cleared five weeks ago.
"We believe as a province we are across head injuries and
have worked hard to introduce our own measures ... and fully
support the New Zealand Rugby Union's practices," Mr
Concussion expert Dr Rosamund Hill said there was a growing
awareness around the risks associated with concussions.
"It does make people aware that there are risks in playing
contact sport, and particularly rugby.
"In the past it has been sort of ignored a bit and overlooked
a bit so I think there is definitely a growing awareness that
it is a serious problem and it needs to be looked at very
New Zealand Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said the
incident would be investigated.
"No doubt, the appropriate authorities and we ourselves will
investigate what happened," he said.
"In the meantime, our focus is on ensuring Jordan's whanau
and the Northland Rugby community have all the support they
need as they come to grips with this."
Jordan's accident comes nearly a year after Aucklander Willie
Halaifonua, a 27-year-old Takapuna lock, died after receiving
a head injury while playing club rugby.
Last month, Kiwis and England star Shontayne Hape revealed he
was forced into retirement and left fearing for his mental
health after suffering repetitive head trauma during his
rugby and league career.
Hape played 14 league tests for the Kiwis and 13 rugby tests
for England between 2004 and 2012 and said he suffered more
than 20 concussions during his career, resulting in constant
migraines, sensitivity to light and sound, irritability,
memory loss and depression.