Peter Fatialofa, a legendary Samoan rugby player who served on his country's national team for nearly a decade, died Wednesday morning in his native Samoa of an apparent heart attack.
He was 54.
According to The New Zealand Herald's Vaimoana Tapaleao and Kris Shannon, Fatialofa was on his way to a local radio interview when he suffered a heart attack. Local medical personnel rushed to the scene, but Fatialofa died before they could get him to the hospital.
"My mum found out from her friends," his daughter, Courtney, told The Herald. "It was sudden. He wasn't sick or anything."
Nicknamed "Fats," Fatialofa is one of the most decorated Samoan rugby players in the sport's history. Playing the prop position, he became known for his passion and leadership on the field as much as his statistical excellence.
Fatialofa, a product of the Ponsonby Rugby Club, made his debut for Auckland in 1984. He played the next eight seasons for the club side, appearing in 71 games and leading Auckland to multiple ITM Cup championships and even being given Keeper of the Shield honors in 1985. That started a run of Ranfurly Shields for Auckland, where they held the Shield from 1985 to 1993.
He was also named to Samoa's national team in 1988, becoming one of the first New Zealand based players to ever suit up for the country. He made in 34 test appearances.
Perhaps Fatialofa's greatest accomplishment came in 1991, when he served as the captain of Samoa's first Rugby World Cup team. An underdog in the tournament, Samoa shockingly made it all the way to the quarterfinals before being eliminated. Fatialofa was named to the tournament's World XV, the equivalent to its all-tournament team.
Although he stepped away from playing rugby in 1996, he stayed involved as both an ambassador and as a coach. Fatialofa was given the New Zealand Order of Merit for his work within the sport in 1996 and worked with the Auckland Rugby Union Council of Delegates on how to improve the sport. He was serving as the coach for Samoa's women's rugby team at the time of his death.
"It's not just about Samoan rugby or Ponsonby or Auckland rugby," All Black great Bryan Williams told The Herald. "He transcended all boundaries. He was universally popular throughout the rugby world."
Fatialofa is survived by his wife, Anne, and his eight children.
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