Former Kiwi and Samoan rugby league legends are rallying together in support of the mid-year clash between the New Zealand Kiwis and England scheduled to go ahead in Denver.
Stomping ground of the Denver Broncos, Mile High Stadium will host the international match on 23 June where Americans will get a taste of world-class rugby league for the first time.
While the Test in Denver is set to challenge the status quo of where international rugby league is played, former Kiwi legends Olsen Filipaina, who also played for Samoa, Ali Lauitiiti and Henry Fa’afili are right behind the new fixture.
Kiwi Olsen Filipaina and Kiwi Ali Lauitiiti played 28 and 19 Tests respectively for the Kiwis and both say taking the game to Denver is an important step for rugby league to move forward.
“I fully support the Kiwis playing in Denver – how else is our game of rugby league going to expand if we don’t showcase it to other countries? Let’s give them a taste of Kiwi,” Filipaina says.
Exploring all international and commercial opportunities for the Kiwis becomes an essential part of growing the game. Expanding into the North American market would, in turn, allow New Zealand Rugby League to better support and resource grassroots rugby league throughout the country.
Lauitiiti is excited to share the game he loves with those in America who haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience ‘the hits’ in real life.
“Personally, I think it’s a great initiative and it’s worked for other sports so why can’t rugby league do the same thing. It’s our great game so why not bless the rest of the world with it,” he says.
Like Ali Lauitiiti, Kiwi Henry Fa’afili remembers his days in the black and white jersey very fondly and only wishes he could do his time again running out at the world renowned Mile High Stadium.
“It would be disappointing if the game in Denver weren’t to go ahead. We’ve got the opportunity to make history with our great game so I think we need to embrace it,” Fa’afili says.
“You only have to see the excitement and reaction from the Americans when Shaun’s twinkle toes are on show. Then there’s Roger’s speed to beat players one on one, and Marty’s strength and power to fend and run over players. For them to experience it first-hand I think will be talked about for a long time,” he added.
Filipaina, Lauitiiti and Fa’afili, alongside a number of other former Kiwis continue to support the growth of rugby league in New Zealand even after hanging up the boots. This includes NZRL Board Member Tawera Nikau and Wellbeing Manager Nigel Vagana who work behind the scenes at NZRL to ensure rugby league continues to benefit New Zealanders across the country.
NZHerald, 14 January 2018
Former NZ Warrior Henry Fa’afili talks league, rugby, family, try celebrations and Tauranga
The Guardian, 30 April 2015
The forgotten story of … Olsen Filipaina, the Polynesian who tamed Wally Lewis
NZHerald, 10 April 2016
NRL: Why Lauitiiti was escorted away from the Warriors (“On a whiteboard, Lauitiiti wrote family and religion at the top, with the Warriors underneath”.)