Some of the members of the newly launched Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame in Auckland. The platform's global presence will be reflected through committees positioned across the globe, representing the UK, Europe, Japan, and the United States. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor
A global platform to honour, recognise and celebrate the contribution of Pasifika rugby heroes, past and present, has been launched in Auckland. The Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame has taken its lead from the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame in the USA.
Rugby legend Savae Sir Michael Jones launched the project, with many famous rugby players watching online from overseas.
Jones said that this is an important platform from which to shine a spotlight on Pasifika's immense contributions to rugby around the World. He said it would also champion a better future for Pasifika players, coaches and administrators:
"We see a lot of things that shouldn't happen, and we see a lot of injustices too, and then we see a lot of unfairness, and so I think as a collective as a platform, we can be a voice, and we can advocate and influence. If it's a voice that is unified, it's very powerful."
Former Black Ferns players - (L-R) Seiuli Fioao'o Fa'amausili and Adrienne Leaoasavai'i Photo: RNZ Pacific/Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor
Former Black Ferns Captain and Rugby World Cup-winner Seiuli Fioao'o Fa'amausili said celebrating the many Pasifika women who have been successful in rugby is very important.
"And they paved the way for these young girls to come through. So to acknowledge them, and to celebrate them is massive, and it brings joy to my heart that we can do this, and we can do this globally as well, so not just within New Zealand but we can recognise the girls that are overseas that have given so much to this game of rugby."
Former Captain of the Samoa Women's Rugby team, Manusina, Ta'ala Cynthia Timaloa agreed. She said that everyone needs to watch this space.
"We are on the move, as Pasifika and rugby, and for all our women out there, we look forward to meeting you all, and we look forward to highlighting the stories and everyone's great achievements because they need to be highlighted."
L-R Sera Mika and former Captain of the Samoa Women's Rugby team, Manusina, Ta'ala Cynthia Timaloa Photo: RNZ Pacific/Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor
The inaugural Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame or PRHOF Celebration Ceremony will be held in early 2024, in Auckland. The event will honour the first four PRHOF Inductees as well as the winner of the Jonah Lomu Memorial Award.
Other awards to be presented at the Celebration Ceremony include Pasifika Coach of the Year, Pasifika Women's Player of the Year, Pasifika Breakthrough Player of the Year, and Pasifika Administrator of the Year.
Jonah Lomu's wife, Nadine said she was happy to back this initiative.
"It's a great thing, to be able to know that Jonah's legacy is protected for the greater good of our next generations, that's what the children and I want, that's what Jonah and I worked together for that, and that's what I know Jonah would want."
Special guest, four-time NFL Super Bowl champion Jesse Sapolu said that there is a lot of interest in the Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame.
Left to right from the back: Ta'ala Cynthia Timaloa, Adrienne Leaoasavai'i, Seiuli Fioao'o Fa'amausili and Seiuli Jesse Sapolu Photo: RNZ Pacific/Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor
Sapolu played both centre and offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers, during one of the team's most successful eras.
He knows first-hand about the importance of recognising Pasifika achievements in professional sports. Together with Ma'a Tanuvasa, Sapolu established the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame in 2013 which honours the greatest players, coaches, and contributors of Polynesian descent in the sport of American football.
Sapolu said he's spoken with the commissioner of rugby in the USA, who is very supportive of the initiative.
"That's how big this thing is, because we got committees at different sections, and we talk about this as a Pasifika rugby hall of fame but it' really all over the world, and we got players in Ireland, England and Japan. They are all included in this."