Tears for ‘Keithy’: ‘Should never have to bury a child’
The broken-hearted mother of a rising Manly Sea Eagles star who died suddenly at training on Monday has tearfully declared: "Parents should never have to bury a child."
Lafo Titmuss spoke through the pain to mourn her 20-year-old son, Manly front-rower Keith, who passed away in Royal North Shore Hospital on Monday after a training session at the Sea Eagles' Narrabeen base.
Kayo is your ticket to the best sport streaming Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Keith's father, Paul, and brother, Jesse, also paid tribute to Keith during emotional interviews with The Daily Telegraph.
Manly coach Des Hasler has cancelled training for the rest of this week with all players offered counselling.
Titmuss, who would have turned 21 on February 12 next year, appeared to sustain severe cramps and fatigue after a two-hour training session. He was rushed to Northern Beaches Hospital and then RNSH but could not be saved.
His cause of death is still being investigated. Titmuss will be remembered by family and friends as being gentle, respectful, loving, quiet yet funny.
"Parents should never have to bury a child. We never thought we would be the parents that would say those words. We are full of tears. I don't think anyone in the family has slept since (Monday)," Lafo said.
"'Keithy' was the larrikin in the family. He was always pulling jokes at family gatherings. He was best friends with his big brother (Jesse), they were best friends with each other.
"His little sister (Zara) also looked up to him. He was like her guardian and security blanket from the moment she was born.
"We don't know how she is going to pull through but we certainly have the love and support from our family, church community and her school community. We are just trying to support one-another.
"I want this to be a tribute to 'Keithy'. I want to celebrate his life and I think he would have loved that too."
A shattered Paul added: "I'm speechless - I'm devastated that I have lost my son. He was doing something he loved. We really didn't have any idea anything like this could happen.
"Rugby league was the career he chose and he dedicated his time and efforts just for that. He did his own personal training and got up every morning to go to work and training. I am at a loss of words."
Titmuss was elevated into Manly's top 30-man NRL squad for next season and was among the first wave of younger players to return to off-season training.
He was signed by Manly at just 14 years old from Cabramatta.
"It's shattering and so unexpected. Keith was my little brother but I looked up to him as an older brother, my best friend, I speak to him about everything," Jesse said. "With what he did in the time he was here, it was something special.
"Me and Keith, we live and breathe footy. That's what we spoke about all the time. He always came to me for advice and I would give him advice.
"Keith's got a huge heart and has a lot of close friends, and that showed on (Monday night) with all the support he received. He had a kind and loving heart toward all his friends and family - that's who he was.
"He was genuinely nice bloke. This coming year, 2021, the whole family was excited for his new contract at the club and his future looked so bright. He was destined to be a star. It's just unfortunate with what happened."
Earlier on Tuesday, Jesse took to social media to describe Keith as his "best friend" and a "loving, gentle giant."
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo, Manly coach Des Hasler and Sea Eagles chief executive Stephen Humphreys comforted the Titmuss family in hospital on Monday evening.
Titmuss had just completed a field session and was stretching when he fell ill. He was a development player this year but did not play a game due to COVID restrictions.
Originally published as Tears for 'Keithy': 'Should never have to bury a child'