Tony Tuimavave – Warrior #13 (1995-2000): 78 games – 9 tries (36 points).
New Zealand (1995): 1 Test – 0 points.
Western Samoa (1995): 2 Tests – 0 points.
Tough, creative back-rower Tony Tuimavave was the best of a prolific Auckland footballing family, punching above his weight with the Auckland Warriors for six seasons and earning Test honours with New Zealand and Western Samoa.
Of the 17 players who took the field against the Brisbane Broncos in the Warriors’ unforgettable premiership debut in 1995, Tuimavave was the only one still at the embattled club in 2000.
An Auckland representative team stalwart after debuting for his province in 1988 – playing alongside brother and former Kiwis centre Paddy – Apia-born ‘Chief’ Tuimavave had an off-season with Sheffield Eagles in 1991-92, represented Western Samoa at the 1990 and ’92 Pacific Cups, captained Northcote Tigers to Fox Memorial glory in 1992 and starred for Waitakere City Raiders in inaugural Lion Red Cup in 1994.
Snapped up by the Auckland Warriors, the relatively unheralded Tuimavave was one of the star-studded team’s best in their foundation season, missing just one match as he mixed bone-rattling defence with considerable ball-playing ability.
His form earned a deserved call-up to the Kiwis’ bench for the second Test of the 1995 series against Australia, but he instead turned out for Western Samoa at the World Cup at year’s end. The compact lock – who also played plenty of football in the second-row for the Warriors and had the occasional foray at prop – donned the No.13 jumper in both of the nation’s games at the tournament.
Out of favour with John Monie in 1996, Tuimavave played just five top-grade games but was a key member of the Warriors’ reserve grade side that reached the grand final, where they went down 14-12 to Cronulla.
He only played a bit-part role for the New Zealand-based club’s first-choice side over the next two seasons – playing in another reserve grade grand final loss in the 1997 Super League campaign – but he regained a regular first grade role under Mark Graham in 1999.
The 30-year-old made 16 starts in the second-row, scoring the late match-winning try in a memorable 20-16 win over South Sydney at the SFS.
While the Warriors were in a state of perpetual turmoil, Tuimavave enjoyed a personally satisfying 2000 swansong, where he played 20 matches and scored a career-high five tries.
Tuimavave pulled on the boots again for his former club Mt Albert Lions in the 2004 Bartercard Cup and later coached the Ponsonby Ponies in the Auckland Rugby League competition.
Nephews Evarn and Carlos Tuimavave both later played for the Warriors and Newcastle Knights.