Australia’s Rugby League World Cup halfback Johnathan Thurston is mourning the death of his uncle, who has been killed after a brutal gang attack in a park south of Brisbane.

The Kangaroos will wear black armbands during their opening World Cup game against New Zealand tomorrow in tribute to 38-year-old Richard Saunders who died from his injuries early today after being rushed to Logan Hospital in a serious condition, along with two friends who were also set upon.

Police said a gang of five or six people had attacked the trio, in Ewing Park, Woodridge, about 1am (AEST), and a homicide investigation was now underway.

Australian Rugby League (ARL) officials issued a statement today to confirm Thurston still wanted to play in tomorrow’s clash with the Kiwis at the Sydney Football Stadium.

“The ARL wish to pass on their condolences to Johnathan Thurston’s family following news of the tragic death of his uncle, Mr Richard Saunders, in Brisbane last night,” it said.