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Savae Sir Michael Jones, with the late Jonah Lomu's wife and Seiuli Jessie Sapolu, who have all been instrumental in helping these awards come together.

Photo/ PMN News


Hall of fame to celebrate past icons and champion 'better future' for Pacific rugby

Some of world rugby's greatest players are in Auckland this week to celebrate the inaugural Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame.

Justin Latif
Justin Latif
28 March 2024, 6:00am
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Rugby greats Tuifa'asisina Sir Bryan Williams, Jonah Lomu and Seiuli Fiao'o Fa'amausili will be among those honoured tonight as the first inductees to the Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame.

The others to be inducted at Eden Park Peter Fatialofa, Brian Lima, Waisale Serevi and George Smith.

Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame chairperson and All Blacks legend Savae Sir Michael Jones told Ma'a Brian Sagala on 531pi's Pacific Days, the event is about paying respect to those who have paved the way for others to excel.

“As Pasifika, sometimes we're very humble, and we don't like to make a big thing out of things, but there's things that we need to celebrate and honor, but we're also good at the fa'alo'alo, showing respect where respect is due.

“And so it was really important that we recognise the players that have had so much influence and put Pasifika on the map as well.”

From left; Seiuli Jessie Sapolu, Waisale Serevi, Savae Sir Michael Jones and Muliagatele Brian Lima. Photo/ Pasifika Rugby Hall of Fame


Given the endless wealth of talented Pacific players in both men’s and women’s rugby, the selection panel decided to narrow their picks to players who had already been named in the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

"It was befitting that we honor them first and foremost for this year."

Savae says the idea for a hall of fame came after spending time with Seiuli Jessie Sapolu, the four-time Pro Bowl and four-time NFL Super Bowl winner, who was able to share how the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame (for NFL players) had become a catalyst for supporting Pacific athletes in the sport.

“We were inspired by them and we wanted to replicate what they do, but we wanted to do it our way with our flavor. That was seven odd years ago, but then with Covid, we couldn't get this to happen, and now post-COVID we've been shaping this up.”

Watch the full interview All Blacks legend Savae Sir Michael Jones below:

The awards dinner will be followed by a Pacific Business Trust Breakfast on the Saturday morning, there there will be the Pacific Fest event that’s running at Eden Park from 11am till 4pm - ahead of the Moana Pasifika v Blues match.

Speaking on 531pi’s Pacific Mornings, New Zealand’s first Samoan All Black Tuifa'asisina Sir Bryan Williams says it’s very humbling to be included alongside players he’s grown up with and coached.

“There have been so many prominent Pacifica players over many, many years now and to have those people honoured in a hall of fame I think is totally appropriate,” he says.

“I played a bit with Peter Fats before I started coaching him, so we were great mates and I coached Jonah for a couple of years down at the Hurricanes.

“And I mean it's very sad to think that both those boys have gone before me. I'm the old fellow and I'm still here and sadly they're not. So it's with a great sense of sadness that they'll be acknowledged posthumously.”

Tuifa'asisina Sir Bryan Williams. Photo/ PMN/ Susana Guttenbeil

And he hopes the hall of fame can help encourage the next generation of Pacific rugby players to achieve at the highest level.

“I was inspired by so many great players who went before and often that's what really drives us. You want to try and emulate those people.”

The awards will also announce the Seiuli Fiao'o Fa'amausili Pasifika Women's Player of the Year, the Jonah Lomu Award Most Influential Pasifika Male Player of the Year Award and the Waisale Tikoisolomoni Serevi Pasifika Breakthrough Player of the Year in both the men’s and women’s game.

Savae says it’s incredibly special recognising today’s current stars, with legends of the past gifting their names to these honours.

"We are also very honoured that the family of legendary All Black Jonah Lomu has gifted his name to the annual Jonah Lomu Pasifika Award celebrating the outstanding Pasifika Men's player of the year.

"We are also honoured that two other outstanding Pasifika rugby players have lent their names for awards. Former Black Ferns Captain and World Cup winner Seiuli Fiao'o Fa'amausili for the Pasifika Women's Player of the Year and one of the greatest ever sevens players, Fijian legend Waisale Serevi, for Pasifika Breakthrough Player of the Year.

"We want the hall of fame to champion a better future for Pasifika players, coaches and administrators and grow the game for Pasifika communities no matter where they play the game we love.”

Watch 531pi’s Pacific Mornings interview with New Zealand’s first Samoan All Black Tuifa'asisina Sir Bryan Williams: