Tuamoheloa goes full circle
Midfielder Fa'aitu Tuamoheloa faces a familiar foe when he racks up his 101st first-class rugby game on Saturday.
Tuamoheloa has not missed a beat since he arrived at the Mackenzie Rugby Club as a fresh-faced 20-year-old with plenty of ability from Tonga, one of four brought in to bolster a struggling senior side.
Since then he has seen plenty of rugby, in a variety of places but is back to where it started.
Tuamoheloa debuted for South Canterbury in 2001 and two years later he was an influential member of the senior Mackenzie championship winning team.
Over four years Tuamoheloa played 36 games for the green-and-blacks, scoring seven tries and making a name for himself a classy midfielder.
Then for work and rugby he shifted to North Otago, where he notched up 53 games, including last year's Meads Cup victory, before returning to Fairlie.
He also continued his try-scoring knack, dotting down 23 times.
In between, he played two seasons in Southland after being headhunted by a club and made their wider training NPC Stags squad.
Tuamoheloa's ability has also been recognised with higher honours making the New Zealand Heartland team on three occasions, including last year, as well as the New Zealand Divisional team in 2005.At 100kg he is a sizeable opponent but it is his ability to read the game and create opportunities for the players around him that sets him apart.
South Canterbury coach Chester Scott said Tuamoheloa was a fine player. "He brings a great balance to the side with his experience and maturity.
"Fa'aitu is a very strong character and the guys will follow him and he's got the same sort of respect that Eric Smith has."
Scott said he also has big expectations of his fellow players which is great.
"No-one is allowed not to pull their weight."
Scott said one of the important things was that he gave the side options.
"He can hold a defence or go through it, he is a very skilled player. One that also creates opportunities for others."
Tuamoheloa said he loved New Zealand since first arriving although the winters came as a shock.
"I thought ‘oh gosh' as I had never seen snow before, it was freezing, but I thought I'd better harden up."
He started work pruning pines for forestry operations but works these days on a dairy farm.
On the rugby field his highlights have been making the New Zealand Divisional side and a taste of the first division in the Southland Stags squad.
"I was pretty stoked, mixing it with some All Blacks."
The 32-year-old said he had thought about hanging up his boots.
"The boys are still pushing me not to give up so probably I've got a few more years."
Tuamoheloa is also a dedicated family man with his children Anna, Naite and Viliami attending most games with his partner.
- © Fairfax NZ News