Tribute was paid to Hawke's Bay farmer Paul Renton at his funeral at the Exhibition Hall at the Hawke's Bay A&P Showgrounds, the place where just four months ago he accepted the 2017 Farmer of the Year title at the Hawke's Bay Primary Sector Awards.
Speaking at Mr Renton's funeral, brother-in-law David Todd said the family had debated over returning to the venue.
"But we have a long family connection with this land, nowhere else was big enough and we wanted to celebrate Paul's life."
Hundreds of people packed the hall with dozens more standing outside, as Mr Renton's funeral cortege arrived, piped up to the venue by the Lindisfarne Pipe Band.
Mr Renton's wife Marie spoke at the funeral, saying she could feel the love in the room as well as the shock, disbelief and hurt, "all natural reactions to Paul's tragic death," she said.
Mr Renton, aged 54, was found dead at his family's farm - Glenmore Station - last Wednesday.
Mrs Renton said she was thankful for the overwhelming support she has received in the week since the death of her husband, who she described as her "best mate and the love of my life". The couple had been together for 30 years and married for 27 years.
She described the Farmer of the Year Award as a "golden moment", but said Mr Renton's subsequent "red card moment" took him off the field and out of play forever.
Longtime friend and rugby cohort John "Chook" Harrison paid tribute to Mr Renton as not only a friend but a top rugby player, saying he was every coach's dream, a dedicated player and trainer who was also dedicated to his teammates.
"He was a hard player, every teammate's hero. He could knock you into tomorrow but was never a dirty player."
Mr Harrison recalled Mr Renton's playing history which included playing for Havelock North, Massey University, Mayfield, Hastings High School Old Boys, Manawatu, Wairarapa Bush invitation team, Mid Canterbury, Hawke's Bay (44 games), NZ Colts internal tour, NZ Juniors, NZ Divisional XV, and Central Zone.
He played two All Black Trials; one for the Possibles and one for the Probables, being awarded Player of the Day for the Probables. He also played in Britain for London Welsh and for the Public School Wanderers.
"He came within a hare's whisker of being an All Black," said Mr Harrison. "You can't tell me he didn't give it a good nudge.
"He would have been a good All Black. He encouraged - almost dragged - people around the paddock, and around life. I am privileged to have played rugby with this guy."
There was a minute's silence to remember Paul "Butch" Renton before the final of the Maddison Trophy at McLean Park, Napier, on Saturday.
There was also a minute's silence at Mid-Canterbury's weekend fixture and at the Lindisfarne vs Rathkeale game last week, for the player who, while at school at Rathkeale was known as "a legend".
The flag at Hereworth School was at half mast also, remembering the "big, snowy-haired winger" who also excelled in tennis, hockey, cricket, swimming and athletics.
Longtime friend Duncan Holden said the number of people who attended the funeral was an outstanding testament to Mr Renton.
"We might forget some of what Butch did, or some of what he said, but we will never forget how he made us feel."
Mr Todd said more than anything "he was a good man".
Paul Renton is survived by his wife Marie, daughters Elsa and Zana and son Hugh.
WHERE TO GET HELP
Rural Support Trust ph 0800 787 254
Lifeline: Ph 0800 543 354 (available 24/7).
Suicide Crisis Helpline: Ph 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO), available 24/7.
Youthline: Ph 0800 376 633.
Kidsline: Ph 0800 543 754 (available 24/7).
Whatsup: Ph 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm).
Depression helpline: Ph 0800 111 757 (available 24/7).
Rainbow Youth: Ph (09) 376 4155.
Samaritans: Ph 0800 726 666.