Keith Titmuss has been remembered by his older brother Jesse as a “gentle giant” who died “living out his dream” as an NRL player.
The 20-year-old rising star died in hospital on Monday after falling ill following a pre-season training run with the Manly Sea Eagles.
Titmuss repoted body cramps while stretching after the non-contact fitness session at the club’s Narrabeen base, with the cause of death unknown.
The popular forward had been building towards an NRL debut next year after earning his promotion to Manly’s full-time squad.
In a heartbreaking tribute posted to Facebook on Tuesday, Titmuss’s older brother said the young footballer was ready for “his breakthrough season”.
“My rock, my bestfriend, you were always by side through thick and thin. I miss you so much lil bro,” Jesse wrote.
“Keith passed on doing what he loved, living out his dream and there is no doubt about that. The hardest working individual I knew, with a mindset like no other.
“That never give up mentality took him to where he was. I was so proud to call Keith my lil bro and if anyone knows me, Keith was all I would talk about.
“Keith, a man of very few words was loved by many and had so many close friends who were all by his side.
“His friends and family were the most important and influential people in his life and every bit of advice he was given he would take it all in. His character and personality were unique and were the qualities towards such a loving, gentle giant.
“Keith was just upgraded to the Top 30 NRL squad for 2021 and was looking forward to what would have been his breakthrough season.
“We were just talking about it a couple of days ago about how well prepared he was physically and mentally for pre season. All of us as a family were optimistic that Keith was to make his NRL debut in 2021. Keith’s memories and legacy will live on forever.
“Keith was fortunate enough to play at the highest level of Rugby League and that was his passion and drive. Keith played in the last ever Holden Cup season, making his debut as soon as he had turned 17.
“The youngest player on field, his ‘Swan Dive’ Grand Final game winning try was a highlight that brings a bright smile and laugh to everyone!
“We love you Keithy! You are so heavy on my heart right now and I will forever carry you by my side. I will take care of Mum, Dad and Zara for you bro, we are all hurting so much.
“Take care lil bro and rest easy.”
Wayne Lambkin, the coach who gave Titmuss his golden opportunity in Manly’s under-20 grand final side, said the youngster was destined to make his mark in the NRL.
“He was powerful, just his strength of his running and his after-contact metres were great,” Lambkin told AAP.
“I had him coming off the bench even though he was young, he was capable of doing that.
“To get into the top 30 and a chance of debuting. I know the club had big aspirations for him.
“I have no doubt he would have achieved that least. It’s very sad.”
‘He knew what his job was and he did it’
Lambkin had also coached Titmuss at renowned nursey Westfield Sports, and the 20-year-old had several close friends across the grades at numerous clubs.
Many of his former schoolmates who are now playing for Wests Tigers’ under-20s team were told of the news by Lambkin on Monday night.
“He was very unassuming, very quiet,” Lambkin said of Titmuss.
“You would say something to him and he would just give you a wry smile or wink and you knew everything was alright. A man of few words.
“We would just yell out ‘Keithy’, and he would give you a smile and wave and we moved on. That’s the way he played footy. He knew what his job was and he did it. That was part of the routine.”
As Manly cancelled Tuesday’s training session while beginning to counsel their players, teammates posted tributes to Titmuss on social media.
“Rest easy brother,” Sea Eagles playmaker Cade Cust posted.
Martin Taupau wrote: “Absolutely heartbreaking. “Maguia lau malaga uso (have a good trip brother).”
Former Manly and current Wests Tigers backrower Michael Chee-Kam posted a video of Titmuss’s Holden Cup title-winning try with the caption “The OG clutch!”
– with AAP