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Rugby League

Pacific-dominated NRL a 'dream come true' says Kiwi great

May 24, 2020 7:43 am

Kiwi rugby league great Olsen Filipiana says the huge Pacific representation in the NRL is a “dream come true”.

But he continues to be frustrated at the inability of the Warriors to give home grown talent opportunities.

Filipiana’s life and career, including his stint with the Balmain Tigers where he faced overt racism from fans and opponents, is covered in a new book, The Life and Times of Olsen Filipaina – Pacific Revolution Pioneer.

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The 63-year-old found the process of speaking to author Patrick Skene quite cathartic, having confronted racism and prejudice alone in Sydney without family when he moved to Sydney in 1980 to play with the Tigers in the then-Winfield Cup.

He said it was something he was not used to because he handled most of it himself because as he had no family, all his family were in New Zealand.

Filipiana, who had a Samoan father and Māori mother, played 103 Sydney first grade games for the Balmain Tigers, the Roosters and North Sydney Bears over eight seasons from 1980.

He played 28 Tests for the Kiwis, famously being plucked out of reserve grade to inspire victories over the Kangaroos in 1983 and 1985.

The centre also earned a reputation for getting the better of Wally Lewis when lining up opposite the Australian champion in Test matches.

Filipiana was reluctant to be regarded as Pacific trailblazer, given players of Pacific Island descent now make up around half of the NRL’s playing stocks.

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