Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Sporting greats celebrate launch of Pacific Islands Rugby Hall of Fame

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Soana Aholelei | Reporter / Director

Spear-headed by a committee led by the legendary La’auli Sir Micheal Jones, Pacific rugby honours its greats with the support of American Football’s greats.

Eden Park was the perfect location for the launch of the inaugural Pacific Islands Rugby Hall of Fame (PIRHOF) last week and Hitting the red carpet were rugby stars of the past, present and future. 

“You know, we’ve got to celebrate our icons, our treasures, our heroes, and they they’ve brought inspiration, and that inspiration goes from generation to generation celebrating our Pacific excellence, who we are, our culture, identity, and of course, connecting,” says Says organising group chair La’auli Sir Micheal Jones.

“We have a global diaspora of rugby players all around the world and we really want to connect.” 

Former All Black captain and Moana Pasifika coach Fa’alogo Tana Umaga was there in support.

“So many good people, Pasifika people, that are going to be recognized tonight. And I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more, you know, in years to come.”

All Black and Blues Outside Back Caleb Clarke was in awe of the icons. 

“I’m just starstruck by a lot of Pacific legends that are here tonight so yeah, I feel like that kid that grew up watching all the YouTube clips of all the legends in here tonight.”

Fresh from the United States was former NFL Great Ma’a Tanuvasa. He accompanied a group from the USA which included four-time superbowl winner Manase Jessie Sapolu from the Polynesian Hall of Fame, who lent their support to the PIRHOF committee.

“I’m a gridiron guy that grew up doing gridiron and we’ve always had our ears and eyes towards the other side of the Pacific,” Tanuvasa says. 

“And to see our brothers, with Brian Lima and a woman rugby player, that they’re inducting today… so, we’re just happy to be a part and be a partner with these guys.” 

The very first seven players inducted into the Pacific Islands Rugby Hall of Fame included All Blacks great Tuifa’asisina Sir Bryan Williams who expressed how he was “honored and very humbled” by to be inducted.

Manu Samoa Legend Muliagatele Brian Lima was also inducted as was former Black Ferns Captain Seiuli Fiao’o Fa’amausili – the only woman in the selection. 

“It’s very special to be inducted into the Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame,” Seiuli says.

“It means more to me than the actual World Rugby Hall of Fame, it’s close to my heart. I play alongside people that have inspired our young people.” Says Seiuli

Wallabies Great George Smith, who is Tongan, was also inducted. 

“Yeah. Look, I haven’t had good memories here in Eden Park in the past. We haven’t… I’ve never won a game here against the All Blacks at the time, but it’s great to be here this evening,” Smith says.

“What a great event to be a part of and also, as well, to be inducted into.” 

Fijian Sevens Legend Waisale Serevi was also inducted on the night. He was full of praise for the organisers.

“We Pacific Islanders, Pasifika sportspeople, we have given a lot to a lot of countries, we have given a lot to a lot of rugby nations in the world and other sports in the world. 

“It’s an honour and privilege for me to be inducted to the Pacific Rugby Hall of Fame 2024.” 

Also, posthumously inducted on the night were Manu Samoa great Papali’itele Peter Fatialofa And All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu.

Lomu’s widow Nadene was on hand with her two sons to receive the award.

“I know that he would be truly honoured to be up there with these other inductees,” she said. 

So, it’s a great thing and moving forward for our people.” 

Four extra awards for current players were also made on the night. In the men’s game, The Jonah Lomu Men’s Player of the Year Award went to All Black Ardie Savea, now plying his trade in Japan, while the Blues’ Mark Telea received the Breakthrough Player of the Year Award.

In the women’s game, French Forward Manae Feleu, who hails from Wallis and Futuna and went to school in the Hawkes Bay for a time,  took out the ‘Breakthrough Player’ Award while Ruby Tui was awarded Player of the Year. 

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