Manly player Keith Titmuss did not raise any red flags during a series of club medical tests conducted just days before he died at a pre-season training session at Narrabeen on Monday.
The Sea Eagles cancelled planned workouts for Tuesday and Wednesday as teammates processed the tragic news, with those requiring additional time off encouraged to take it if they are not ready to return on Thursday.
Titmuss, who collapsed after a routine session on Monday, did not have any health issues that the club was aware of. The NRL will wait for the coroner to determine the cause of death before deciding how to proceed.
Titmuss was a promising forward who had been elevated to Manly's top-30 squad in the belief he was a strong chance of making his first-grade debut in 2021. The 20-year-old was one of several players who underwent a battery of tests, believed to include an electrocardiogram (ECG), late last week to ensure they were healthy and ready for the rigors of pre-season training.
The Sea Eagles have been assisting the police as they prepare a report for the coroner.
"It's a tragic event that has saddened everyone," Manly chief executive Stephen Humphreys said. "The family and the club have been overwhelmed with messages of condolence and support, and I know the family really appreciate that outpouring of support.
"We're hoping the medical review that's happening will provide some answers to the questions the family and the club have. We'll do our best in the coming days to pay tribute to Keith and then manage the challenge of returning to training and preparing the team for the year ahead."
Titmuss complained of suffering cramps following the training session. He was transported by ambulance to nearby Northern Beaches Hospital before being transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
"SafeWork has not been notified that the incident was work related," said a spokesperson for SafeWork NSW. "SafeWork will continue to monitor the situation as it progresses."
Tributes flowed in from Titmuss' closest footballing friends on Tuesday. Sea Eagles teammate Josh Schuster posted on Instagram: "My brother, my Uso, my day1 and my best mate.
"I don't know how to put into words how broken I am. You were my best mate since primary school, all the laughs, all the jokes, all the time you used to bully me in tackle footy ... and your kindness and respect towards people.
"I'm going to miss you my brother, I'm going to look after your family my Uso I promise you."
Bulldogs player Matthew Doorey, another friend from their junior league days, posted: "You were my best mate, someone I could rely on if ever I needed to chat and someone who was always there for me.
"We were tight from a young age and and I shared the best memories of my life growing up with you Keith ... I will always be there for your family. I love and miss you so much."
Another tribute came from Dragons winger Jason Saab, who added: "You were so deserving of your dreams and I promise to live them out for you."
Channel Nine commentator and premiership-winning skipper Paul Gallen summed up the feelings of everyone in the league community and said he was thinking of the Titmuss family.
"I was shocked when I heard," Gallen said. "Not just the whole rugby league community [is in mourning], but everyone, the sporting community and the community in general.
"For a young kid to go to training – you train your backside off to live your dream – and for that to happen, it's shocking.
"It's a terrible situation for the family and my deepest condolences to them and to the Manly club, to the sport, to everyone. It's so sad."
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