Rest in Love Va’aiga Inga Tuigamala

A Pasifika Giant of Our Game and Community

We are saddened today to hear the news of the passing of Inga Tuigamala, one of the legends of Pasifika and New Zealand rugby, and son of Samoa who has gone too soon.

The Moana Pasifika Board, management and team wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the Tuigamala family who are in our prayers.

Moana Pasifika stands on the shoulders of all those who have gone before in Pacific rugby and Inga was certainly one of the giants and an athlete who paved the way. Known for his power and speed on the field, Inga influenced many lives over many years and was a genuinely kind person with the biggest most infectious smile who had a love for Pasifika people.

Two of Moana Pasifika’s Board members knew Inga well.

Moana Pasifika Trust chair Savae Sir Michael Jones was a fellow teammate to Inga on the grounds of West Auckland through to Auckland provincial rugby and later with the All Blacks from 1989 to 1993.  

“Inga is one of the most majestic rugby players and athletes I’ve ever seen. Majestic in the sense he was all power and all pace, but also all style and fleet footed.” says Sir Michael Jones.

“I was so privileged to play with him. Whether it was the black jersey, blue and white stripes of Auckland, his beloved Manu Samoa, Wigan team or Newcastle, he was a real professional before his time and really did set the benchmark for another generation of aspiring young, not just Pacific Island and Samoan kids, but Kiwis and British young people.

“His legacy it’s so huge and significant, he’s influenced so many people in his life, including myself. I have never met anyone like Inga, he’s the most unique individual with a beautiful spirit. He was blessed with a gift of a cheeky sense of humour, something that helped him develop resiliency. His taonga or treasure was that he always put others first and lifted them up. He lived that throughout his life every day.

“The hole that is left in our hearts is huge, for his darling wife and family, there’s so many of us who just loved him dearly and he’s impacted us forever. We’re so grateful that he was part of not just our rugby careers but in life, being brothers and mates.

Board member and patron to Moana Pasifika Sir Bryan ‘BeeGee’ Williams says of finding out the sad loss “I have not long ago been woken with the devastating news that our dear uso, friend and brother Va’aiga Tuigamala, “Inga the Winger” had died. Absolutely shocked!! Our sincere condolences and alofas to Daphne and the family.” 

Williams says of his first encounter with Inga on the field “Inga was a beautiful human being. That smile was so engaging and ever present. I first met him when he was sixteen. The day before he had played for NZ U/16s. I was 35. I marked him in a game between Ponies and a Kelston Boys team. After the dust had settled, he’d scored five tries. I was run around, run over, and made to look second rate. And all with that beautiful smile. Fortunately after school he came back to play for Ponies. I saw such talent for the next few years with Ponies and then with the Auckland team that Maurice Trapp and I were coaching. It was inevitable he would become an All Black. And then he was wooed away to rugby league.

“After a great career there he returned to rugby and I selected him for Manu Samoa. His first game was against Ireland on Lansdowne Rd. Inga terrorised the Irish that night. We won 41-25. Five tries to one. 

“So many memories of this wonderful human being. One of the most recent was the honouring of Inga with the naming of the field after him at Kelston Boys. A lovely occasion. RIP, Inga. You will be greatly missed. Alofa, ofa atu.” says Williams

For the Moana Pasifika team, the day was immediately changed with Coach Aaron Mauger putting the team schedule and all matters on hold so that the team could come together and reflect.

“The team took this morning to acknowledge Inga, his mana and family. We started the day with Lotu (prayers) for Tuigamala family, to reflect and celebrate the legend of Inga and the huge influence he had on the game, in the Pasifika community and pretty much anybody else who was fortunate enough to share some of his journey with him.” says Mauger.

“He will be remembered as a great, one of our giants who inspired young rugby and league players right across the world. As a team we will try our best to honour Inga by aspiring to serve our people in the same manner. RIP Inga the winger.” 

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