Many gathered in West Auckland today to farewell former Chiefs and All Blacks flanker Sione Lauaki who passed away earlier this week. Those that turned up included friends, family and many from the rugby community.
It was Lauaki’s character off the field that defined him more than his devastating play on it. His wife Stephanie humbled by the turn out at Church Unlimited.
“He was blessed with so much love from God to able to share with so many people and you can see that with everyone who has come here today,” said Lauaki.
For a player of his calibre, he had a brief stint in the Black jersey since his debut match against Fiji in 2005. The previous year, he made a statement turning out for the Pacific Islanders team which was made up of the best players from Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa.
Ian Foster, who coached him at the Chiefs and is now the Assistant Coach for the All Blacks remembers his work ethic and his mischievous nature that got him to the top.
“I just used to see how hard he used to work, how hard he would put himself under Nick Gill the trainers and all that to get him to the right place.”
“I remember Sione's smile and I'm pretty sure that we all do. And it was his mischievousness that went with it,” says Foster.
Lauaki had battled many health problems throughout his career that not many people of the public or his teammates were aware of.
Foster said, “Training to play didn't come natural(ly) to Sione. And, he was always frustrated and angry that every time he looked at food, he put a couple of KGs on. And that was Sione, and now we kinda know why don't we?”
While he was intimidating on the field, he was completely the opposite off it.
His older sister Paenga Lauaki remembers the man that didn’t like to be fussed over,
“He would probably say "People are making a fuss." He would be like "Why are these people here? They should go and relax and leave me as is."