Peter Fats farewelled by 2,000 fans and rugby who's who
Peter Fats farewelled by 2,000 fans and rugby who's who.
New Zealand's most famous piano mover and former Manu Samoa captain, Papali'itele Peter Fatialofa, was laid to rest in south Auckland on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night a who's who of All Blacks and Samoan rugby joined more than one thousand fans, friends and family at a special service to remember the man better known as Peter Fats.
Leilani Momoisea filed this report:
The conch shells herald four hours of music, laughter and tales about the man his friends say transcended the boundaries of sport. The former All Black, Bryan Williams, says in their early days at the Ponsonby Rugby Club, Peter Fatialofa was a wild man, who enjoyed starting fights in pubs. Fats was a hard man on the field too, as Williams found out to his cost on a tour to Japan as he chased down an opposition winger.
BRYAN WILLIAMS: And as I made the tackle, he cleaned both of us up. And down I went. Ended up with a broken hand. I couldn't play the guitar afterwards at the after-match function. So I said 'Why did you do that, Fats? I had him covered'. He said 'Beeg, I've always wanted to tackle you, eh?'.
Williams says Fats was "saved" by his wife Anne and by rugby. The giant prop matured to become a stalwart of the great Auckland side of the 1980s, then captained Manu Samoa to 1991 Rugby World Cup quarterfinals.
BRYAN WILLIAMS: Fats put Samoan rugby on the map, as we all know. He played a big part in putting the team together, raising money, the wheelbarrows and who'll ever forget that great win over Wales? It was the greatest party of all time.
Another friend, former All Black Joe Stanley, says Fats was proud of his rugby achievements, but disappointed he never made the All Blacks.
JOE STANLEY: In every cloud there's a silver lining, and I guess that's what the calling was, that he went to Manu Samoa. And the rest is history. Extremely proud of his heritage, extremely proud of his team, extremely proud to lead his country.
Another speaker, Herman Retzlaff who's a lawyer, recalled how Peter Fatialofa turned up in court one day to speak for a friend who was being sentenced.
HERMAN RETZLAFF: The reason why I remember is because I was the guy trying to lock this person up. And when he spoke, it just took over the whole courtroom. His presence was amazing and the way he spoke was just fantastic.
The judge agreed not to send his friend to jail.
HERMAN RETZLAFF: And in the courtroom I could hear Fats saying "Too much!".
Many of Peter Fatialofa's Manu Samoa team-mates were at the service. One of them, Vili Alaalatoa, says the catchphrase epitomised his captain's approach.
VILI ALAATOA: If you did something really bad, something stupid - mind you, we did a lot of stupid things back then - his only response was 'Silly. You're too much, kid'. And if you did something really good and you were on top of the world he turned around and said 'Too much!'.
And his Manu Samoa team-mates, joined as well by Manu Sina players, sang the song he helped make famous around the world - We are Samoa. At the time of his death, he was coaching the women's Samoan rugby team, Manu Sina, who had just qualified for next year's world cup in France. His niece Cesca Luafalealo, who is the Manu Sina halfback, says her uncle had just four months to mould them into a team.
CESCA LUAFALEALO: He believed in our ability, even though others might have doubted us. We were seen to be going up against the odds, but to Fats, I think it was just another opportunity to make history.
And she spoke of Peter Fatialofa's generosity.
CESCA LUAFALEALO: His love for his family was amazing. If you ever needed anything he would provide. If you needed to borrow anything he would provide. If you ever needed to borrow a job, like my brothers and my cousins... he would provide.
A family friend, Toleaopai Lui Tautolo, says Peter Fats was a "damn good Samoan Kiwi" who took seriously his duties as a matai. He was always the first to help Samoa in times of cyclone or other disasters.
TOLEAOPAI LUI TAUTOLO: He was loved by everyone in Samoa because of his gentle, humorous and kind nature. [Indistinct} Some of the women in business and others accompanied his body from Samoa. They would never think of letting him travel back on his own. He was a brother to them. Thank you for bringing our son back home.
Sose Annandale, the general manager at Sinalei Reef Resort, accompanied Fats' body from Samoa to Auckland. She spoke about how he was loved, respected and larger than life, and a gentle giant with a heart the size of the planet.
SOSE ANNANDALE: Fats loved his family and after many a night, it was not uncommon of him to stop mid-stream, partying, and say, 'Take me to the airport. I want to see Annie, or give me the phone, I want to call Annie'.
Thousands more gathered for Peter Fatialofa's funeral service on Wednesday, where his wife Anne, son Jeremiah and Samoa's High Commissioner Leasi Tommy Scanlan spoke. He was buried at the Manukau Memorial Gardens.
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