Christian Leali’ifano picks up top award at Moana Pasifika’s awards evening

Moana Pasifika’s inaugural awards evening held last night honouring their maiden season in Super Rugby Pacific was full of celebration and joy. In their first year in the competition, Moana Pasifika collected two historic wins over the Hurricanes and the Brumbies and pushed several teams in tight games. The year was deemed a success by all players, coaches, management, staff and sponsors in attendance.

The supreme award of the night, the Moana Man, presented by Head Coach Aaron Mauger was awarded to Christian Leali’ifano in a season that saw him surpass 1,000 Super Rugby points and play a pivotal role on the field. A true Moana Man reflects everything Moana Pasifika is about and is consistent in modelling the Moana Pasifika values of respect, humility, tautua and integrity.

Head Coach Aaron Mauger presents Christian Leali’ifano with ‘Moana Man of the Year’ supreme award. Photo supplied.

The winner is considered a leader in every way, a trusted teammate, speaks with his actions by preparing and performing at the highest standards of excellence and demands excellence from his peers. A Moana Man is always prepared to do what is best for the team, the club and the people of the Pacific. Leali’ifano was the clear choice as his leadership, positivity, and influence on the growth of the team and the Pasifika people stands out above all others in the 2022 season.

The other awards for the evening were hotly contested. Manu Samoa loose forward Alamanda Motuga collected three prestigious awards. He was voted by his peers as the Players Player. This is awarded to a player that embodies everything a teammate should be, both on and off the field, having earnt the respect and trust of those around him.

In addition, Motuga also received the Niu Award for Rookie of the Year. The player must be in their first year of Super Rugby and is voted by the players and management of the team. The person is selected for their ability to adapt to the demands of Super Rugby through outstanding levels of self-leadership, discipline, and professionalism.

With 11 turnovers, 83 tackles and 1 try in just 8 games, and a dominant physical presence, Motuga was also awarded the Savae La’auli Sir Michael Jones Forward of the Year Cup.

Another big winner was electric winger Timoci Tavatavanawai. The Fijian-born flyer finished the competition with 57 defenders beaten in 8 games, the most out of every player in DHL Super Rugby Pacific. His strength, skill and explosive power saw him collect the Tuifa’asisina Sir Bryan Williams Cup for the Back of the Year.

Tavatavanawai, affectionately known as ‘Jimmy the Jet’, also received the Maui award for the best attacking player of the year. Maui is a Pasifika Demi-God, known for his attacking genius, innovation, swiftness, agility, and quick mind. Maui represents Moana Pasifika’s offensive aspirations.

Moana Pasifika has a fierce and loyal fan base across the world. Each week, fans are asked to vote for the Most Valuable Player after each match. The votes across all 14 games were tallied and blockbusting midfielder Levi Aumua was the clear winner and named the Fans Player of the Year. His impressive season saw him beat 38 defenders, amass 124 contact metres and score 3 tries.

In contrast, ‘Ikale Tahi flanker Solomone Funaki received the Tangaloa award for the best defensive player. Tangaloa is the caretaker of the Pacific Ocean, is known for his strength, his vastness, his power and unwavering will. He represents Moana Pasifika’s aspirations on defence as an uncompromising defender. Funaki won 8 turnovers this year, made 102 tackles and scored 4 tries.

There were two other important awards presented for off-field contributions. All players are encouraged to work on their own growth and holistic development off the field during their professional playing careers. This helps them to prepare for their next chapter post-rugby and it helps provide an important balance in their life away from the field. Michael Curry was the recipient of the Galue award for completing his extramural studies through Massey University while playing full-time, and not missing any trainings or team-related activities.

Finally, the Tautua award was presented to Tomasi Alosio to acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding services to the team and the organization. The spirit and the essence of tautua is ‘leadership through service’ and this award honours the recipient for their selfless contribution voted by Coaches and Management.

Moana Pasifika Awards:

Moana Man of the Year – Christian Leali’ifano
Players Player of the Year – Alamanda Motuga
Savae La’auli Sir Michael Jones Forward of the Year – Alamanda Motuga
Tuifa’asisina Sir Bryan Williams Back of the Year – Timoci Tavatavanawai
Fans Player of the Year – Levi Aumua
Niu Award for Rookie of the Year – Alamanda Motuga
Maui Award for Attacking Player of the Year – Timoci Tavatavanawai
Tangaloa Award for Defensive Player of the Year – Solomone Funaki
Tautua Award – Tomasi Alosio
Galue Award – Michael Curry

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