Pasifika Rugby Awards: In honour of former stars

Two current rugby stars of Samoan origin will be awarded as the first-ever Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame’s Most Influential Players in the World.

All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea, who currently plays his rugby in Japan, is the winner of the Jonah Lomu Award for the most influential Pasifika male player in the world.

Savea was also World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in 2023.

Black Ferns wing Ruby Tui will receive the ‘Seiuli Fiao’o Fa’amausili Award for the most influential Pasifika women player in the world.

The ‘Waisale Serevi Pasifika Breakthrough Player of the Year’ award will go to All Black and Auckland Blues winger Mark Telea for the men’s competition and French women’s rugby rep Manae Feleu.

Telea is of Samoan origin and was also ‘World Rugby Men’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2023’.

Feleu is originally from Wallis and Futuna and plays for the French national women’s team.

Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame chairman La’auli Sir Michael Jones said the awardees are all deserving players who continue to shine the light for Pasifika rugby, adding the awards will be to honour the late Jonah Lomu, Waisale Serevi and Seiuli Fiao’o Fa’amausili and their contribution to the game around the world.

“It is important that we recognise those Pasifika rugby players who have had some influence on the game, particularly over the last few years,” he told Pacific Media Network in an interview this week.

The awards will be held in conjunction with the induction of seven Pasifika rugby stars in the Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame.

The seven are the late Jonah Lomu (Tonga/New Zealand)) and the late Pita Fatialofa (Samoa), Waisale Serevi (Fiji), George Smith (Tonga/Australia), Muliagatele Brian Lima (Samoa), Seiuli Fiao’o Fa’amausili (Samoa/New Zealand) and Tuifa’asisina Sir Bryan Williams (Samoa/New Zealand).

Sir Michael said it is exciting times for Pasifika rugby and the stars deserve to be recognised.

“Quite an array of our finest ever men and women who have played rugby for the Wallabies, All Blacks and Fiji,” he told Pacific Media Network in an interview.

“We are really pleased with this group of inductees.”

Established in 2023 the PRHOF says they will honour the greatest Pasifika rugby players, coaches, and contributors, celebrate Pasifika culture, and provide increased opportunities for its people.

Former American football star Seiuli Jesse Sapolu made the call for such a move to be made at the launch of New Zealand Rugby’s Pasifika Strategy 2024-2029 in November 2023.

Sapolu said then the accomplishments by Pasifika players in New Zealand and the world need to be honoured.

“Our rugby story has a long history of success, that’s longer and deeper than a Polynesian gridiron story we celebrate in America,” he said then.

He said Pacific Island players’ contribution is still being under-appreciated and the players don’t want any special treatment, just the right to have their stories heard and placed in the right place.

“It is without a doubt our Pacific Island players’ contribution to rugby have been underappreciated,” he said.

“We have a long line of rugby stars with great pedigree. Some of the very best players in the history of rugby have been Polynesians or Pacific Islanders. We are not asking for special favours or to be treated in a special way. We just ask or want our stories to be installed properly as part of the legacy here and around the world.”

The same week saw the establishment of the Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame with Sapolu also made a Board Member, representing the American branch of the new organisation.

Chairman Sir Michael says discussions on the set up of the PRHOF had been on-going for the last six years.

The week’s program begins on Wednesday evening with the traditional welcoming of the awardees and inductees plus guests and the official opening of the Pasifika Rugby Festival week at the Fale Pasifika, University of Auckland.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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