'Young talent': Promising rugby league player Zae Wallace dies from serious infection caused by flu

A talented up-and-coming rugby league player has died from an infection after developing pneumonia.

Zae Wallace, 20, died on Saturday. He had been in an induced coma in Auckland City Hospital since April. 

In a statement released on Sunday, the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) described the former New Zealand Secondary School and under-18 representative as a "lovely and cheeky young man, who had a great sense of humour and a great bunch of friends."

A Givealittle page, initially established to raise funds to support Wallace's rehabilitation, has raised almost $33,000 in the last four weeks.

"Zae had the flu which progressed to pneumonia and subsequently a serious infection," the page description reads.

In an update posted on Saturday, it said Wallace "slipped away peacefully… surrounded by friends, family and limitless love and kindness".

The New Zealand Rugby League said the young sportsman returned to Auckland this year after a stint with the Gold Coast Titans under-20 side.

"Playing at halfback and being the youngest member of the squad, Wallace was one of the Akarana Falcons star performers in their National Premiership championship victory in 2016. That same year he was named Auckland Rugby League's College Player of the Year.

"He won selection following a standout season with the Mt Albert Lions in Auckland's Fox Premier Rugby League Competition. He had returned to New Zealand to play with the Northcote Tigers and had only played one game when he became ill," said the statement.

"Our deepest condolences go out to Zae’s family and friends, not only was he a rising league star with exciting skill and potential, he was loved by many. A young talent that will be sorely missed."

The update posted to the Givealittle page on Saturday acknowledged that Wallace's family felt "blessed with the realization he has touched so many lives in his short time with us".

The funds will initially be used to help Wallace's family with funeral expenses.