David Kirk has written a superb tribute to Fats in the NZ Herald. Three extracts:
There’s Fats in the Ponsonby jersey he was so proud to wear, taking a pass from the halfback off a short lineout in a club match. Within three metres he is at full speed, bull neck tucked into his hunched shoulders, cannonball head forward, legs pumping. Fats on the charge was a fearsome sight. The various components of the running man – arms, legs, a head on top – morphed into a spinning ball of muscle. I, for one, was happy to defer to a larger type when it came to getting in the way. On this day on Eden Park, as University gave as good as it got in a top of the table battle, Mata’afa Keenan had no hesitation. In true Pacific Island style, he didn’t wait. He ran at Fats. Mass times velocity times two equals sickening smash. Both players bounced back and ended up splayed on the ground. Mata’afa was up and all good. Fats, too, was up quickly, but he put his hand on the shoulder he had led with and then he rolled his shoulder a couple of times. That was the only time I ever saw Fats register physical discomfort. Boy it felt good!
One misty autumn day in Oxford in 1988 I got a call from Peter Fatialofa. Fats was the captain of the Samoan touring team in Britain. Samoa was playing a match in Cardiff that week and Fats wanted to know if I could come down to see the team and take a training session. I took the train down, arriving at about midday and we had the training session in the afternoon. I stayed in the evening for dinner with the team and by then it was too late to get a train back. The Samoan rugby union had no money to pay for an extra room, so Fats said I would stay in his room. I expected twin beds, but there was only one bed and it was a single. Fats gestured to the bed and said, “That’s yours”. He slept on the floor. No blankets, no pillow, no complaints. What did sleeping on the floor matter to him if he had prepared his team better for the match ahead?
I can think of no greater compliment to give Peter – and I know he would see it that way – but to say that I wish I had had the opportunity to introduce my own children to him and for them to spend time in his company. To spend time with Peter Fatialofa was to be given a big dose of the best antidote to the tide of self-promotion and brittle celebrity worship that continues to rise like dry rot.
A sad loss.