Hundreds farewell All Black Sione Lauaki

Former All Black, brother, son and father Sione Lauaki has been farewelled by about 1500 people at Unlimited Church in West Auckland today.

The 35-year-old died last Sunday from kidney problems, but he didn't want to be remembered for his health problems, his eldest sister Paenga Kovi Lauaki said.

"It's definitely been a difficult time. For the family it has been a shock [but] we're dealing with it. My brother was always the one who never wanted us to worry. I know he's probably saying 'everybody just relax, it's all going to be okay'.

"He was always so special to us," Ms Lauaki said.

"He always kept us grounded. He always kept us calm, of course. And his actions spoke louder than his words. That was the kind of person my brother was."

Sione Lauaki was the second of nine children and had five of his own.

He widow, Stephanie, spoke at the service today.

"Everything he did came from a foundation of love. Even when he got in trouble, somehow it was to love."

She said she felt really honoured to have been his wife and the mother of his children and to be able to share in that love every minute of each day.

"The way that he loved is something that I see in our children. They love openly, hard, strong. The way Max (their son) would come up. If [Sione] wasn't having a good day, Max would check on him every 10 minutes and kiss him on the forehead."

She said she was blessed to be able to look at their sons and see the love of their father every day.

"I never understood until this week why my sons do everything that their father does. They look nothing really like me, everyone says they just look like their dad. But they do all these characteristic traits that he does. I know the family see it all the time, they laugh all the time.

"They're just little gangsters. He literally didn't have to do anything and they did everything he did. And now I understand, because he wasn't going to be around to teach them to be like that. They had it in their hearts already and I'm just so thankful."

Sione Lauaki went to Kelston Boys' High School. A group of current students and old boys performed a haka as he was carried out of the church and put into the hearse.


Former Waikato Rugby coach Ian Foster spoke on behalf of New Zealand rugby about Mr Lauaki's contribution to the sport and what kind of man he was.

He said when Mr Lauaki played for Waikato in 2003 he wondered "who the heck this guy was coming off the bench doing all this damage".

"So very wisely we draughted him into the Chiefs," Mr Foster said.

He said he went on to play seven years with the Chiefs.

He became an All Black in 2005, debuting against Fiji. He was All Black number 1055.

Mr Foster said making the team meant a lot to Mr Lauaki and his family.

He said he played 17 tests for the All Blacks over four years and then played for the French clubs Clermont and then Bayonne when illness stopped his rugby career.

"I remember Sione's smile, and I'm pretty sure we all did. And it was his mischievousness that went with it. And when he actually got caught doing something it was that little wee child-like giggle that he had, that just didn't seem appropriate coming out of that big body."

Sister Paenga Kovi Lauaki said she'd like people to remember her brother as "a big gentle giant who had a big heart and loved all those he encountered."

She said he always put people's needs before his own.

"We wanted to show the public that he's not just a big ball runner but he was actually a really generous, humble and loving person who had so much to give."

She said when he was given cars, as an All Black, he would give them to her as that's traditional in Tonga.

"That was the kind of guy he was. All the new latest stuff he got he never used it for himself he always gave it out to the siblings."


Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou (Family of Sione Lauaki, including wife Stephanie (second left), say their farewells). 

Photo: PHOTOSPORT (Sione Lauaki )