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The “heart of Southland rugby league”, Alana Lockhorst, has died just over a decade after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

In 2011 Lockhorst was diagnosed with carcinoid syndrome, a rare form of bowel cancer.

She told Stuff 2017 she was one of about seven in the country diagnosed with the condition. Lockhorst traveled to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne for her treatment as there is none available in New Zealand.

During her cancer journey, she remained heavily involved with Southland District Rugby League as a volunteer.

Lockhorst told Stuff in 2020 that rugby league had helped her mentally through the cancer diagnosis.

“Rugby league has given me a sense of living, something to do, something to get up for. It’s saved my life mentally,” she said.

In 2016, she was named a finalist for volunteer of the year at New Zealand Rugby League’s awards.

While in 2021 the NZRL handed her a Distinguished Service Award for her contribution to the sport.

The NZRL described Lockhorst as the heart of Southland rugby league for the past decade.

“Without her contribution operationally, Southland Rugby League would not have provided the level of rugby league that they do to their community,” NZRL officials said.

They said Lockhorst had almost single-handedly promoted and created opportunities for rangatahi in the game. She ran competitions and organised funding and resourcing for 14s, 15s, 17s, and girls representative teams.

Lockhorst also managed the senior competition and was always involved in any events and activities hosted by Southland District Rugby League.

Alana Lockhorst is flanked by Kiwi rugby league stars, Isaiah Papal'i, left, and Braden Hamlin-Uele.
Alana Lockhorst is flanked by Kiwi rugby league stars, Isaiah Papal’i, left, and Braden Hamlin-Uele.

On top of that Lockhorst managed the New Zealand Secondary Schools team in 2017 which was captained by now Brisbane Broncos NRL player Jordan Riki. Lockhorst also managed the NZ Residents team in 2017 and 2019.

She was also a key organiser for Cooks Rugby League Club in Invercargill.

Her respect within the rugby league community was highlighted given the fundraising effort to help during Lockhorst’s cancer treatment.

It included League 4 Life, the charitable arm of the NZRL, getting involved.

A service for Lockhorst will be held in Invercargill on Tuesday.