Collapsed footballer was 'star' of family

Greta Stonehouse

A talented young NSW rugby league player who collapsed and died during a Wollongong game at the weekend was a "star" in his family's eyes, his sister says.

Tory Brunning, 22, had played half a match in the reserve grade for the Dapto Canaries at its home ground on Saturday afternoon when he left the field after complaining of flu-like symptoms.

Less than two hours later, Mr Brunning was found collapsed in the Dapto Showgrounds dressing sheds.

Paramedics worked to revive Mr Brunning, but he died at the scene.

"Baby Brother, He was much Loved," Kourtney Waitarehu posted on social media on Sunday.

"A star in our eyes and taken in a blink."

Tributes have flowed on social media as the football community remember the former Illawarra Sports High school student as a champion.

"A champion on and off the field was my pleasure to have played with you on that field as you grew from a young boy to a man deepest thoughts to your friends family and the Illawarra rugby league," Rhys from Toowoomba posted on the Illawarra Mercury.

Illawarra District Rugby League general manager Chris Bannerman said it was a tragedy no family should have to go through.

"It appears to be a terrible tragedy and we extend our sympathies to his family and friends, and everyone who was involved .. at the venue," he said in a statement on Facebook.

The New Zealand native moved to Sydney as a teenager to pursue his promising football career.