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Bartercard Cup stalwart Ben Valeni collapsed at North Harbour Tigers training last night (Thursday 7 July) suffering a suspected heart attack.
Despite efforts described by on lookers as ?heroic?, Coach Karl Benson and team mate Jason Duff were unable to revive him.
33 year old Valeni was preparing for only his second game for the Tigers having transferred recently from the Glenora Bears where he had played all of his Bartercard Cup since 2000.
Both clubs are devastated by this tragedy and they along with Auckland Rugby League and New Zealand Rugby League wish to convey their deepest sympathies to Ben?s family and friends.
A Te Atatu Junior, Valeni?s representative honours included Auckland Provincial teams and the Waitakere City Raiders in the Bartercard Cup?s predecessor the Lion Red Cup.
The veteran?s outstanding form in 2004 saw him drafted into the Warriors development programme and selected for New Zealand ?A? to play a NSW selection in the curtain raiser to the Tri-Nations Test match played at North Harbour Stadium.
Valeni?s contribution was not limited to the football field as he was also a very popular Teacher at South Auckland?s De La Salle College.
As a mark of respect and sympathy, the Counties-Manukau Jetz have agreed to defer their home match against the North Harbour Tigers scheduled for this evening (Friday 8 July) at Massey Park, Papakura.
A revised date will be confirmed once the Competitions Commissioner has identified an appropriate window.