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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Fatialofa hangs up his boots

FORMIDABLE David (Fats) Fatialofa, one of Whitehaven RL’s best-ever props, will be hanging up his boots at the end of the season.

 David Fatialofa
David Fatialofa and his children take to the pitch possibly his last match? Pic kevin murphy 24/08/08

Despite weeks out of the first team, the battle-hardened victim of two broken arms returned to the fray last Sunday and once again led by example in the team’s magnificent defeat of Widnes.

Responding to the call in Haven’s hour of need, due to the absence of two other powerful front rowers, Marc Jackson and Ryan McDonald, the 34- year-old Kiwi made a timely but surprise comeback with his right arm heavily strapped.

The prop forward par excellence was given the honour of leading the team out and inspired an opening 20-minute assault which eventually destroyed Widnes up front.

However, with Haven drawn away in the National League One play offs, it was effectively his rugby swan song on the Recreation Ground.

David told The Whitehaven News: “I have made up my mind now to retire. I’ve had the same arm broken twice and then a bone graft, so I reckon that’s pretty much it.

“In fact, I didn’t really think I was going to be able to play again this season until I tested the arm in the reserves, it held up and next thing there I was turning out against Widnes on Sunday and helping the lads to a great win.

“When I came over from New Zealand I never thought I would play for any other club but Whitehaven, and I haven’t. I have really enjoyed my time here but I can’t risk any more damage to the arm. I have to put my family and job first but there’s some good young front rowers coming through which will stand the club in good stead over the next three or four years.”

But opposition forwards haven’t yet seen the last of the redoubtable Kiwi: Fats wants to complete his 12-year career by helping Whitehaven make an impact in the play-offs.

“I took another knock on my arm against Widnes, it’s still, a bit sore but if it’s declared okay for me to play against Leigh I definitely want,” he said.

The Hilton Park clash is on Sunday week so the troublesome arm has every chance of making a full recovery!

“If Fats is fit that will be fantastic, he will bolster the side no end just as he did against Widnes. This man has a presence on and off the field, it just feels right when he is there, whether on the field or in the dressing room,” said head coach Ged Stokes.

Asked how he rated his fellow New Zealander, Ged answered: “Ten out of ten.... he’s.a very honourable and honest gentleman of the game respected by team mates and opponents alike. And the message in the opposition dressing room was invariably: Watch David Fatialofa.”

“Back home when I first came across him, David was just starting to make a name for himself with the Junior Kiwis playing with the likes of Joe Vagana, Robbie and Henry Paul under the coaching of a good friend of mine, Frank Endacott. It was very difficult to make a living out of rugby league in New Zealand, so like a few others Fats came over here and carved out a tremendous career.

“This season due to his injury he’d only played a couple of first team games but on Sunday who would have thought he’d never been away, it takes a lot of mental toughness to go out and play as well as he did, he was inspired and inspiring.”

It was Stan Martin who brought Fats to Whitehaven with Leroy Joe and Aaron Lester.

Stan recalls: “I still remember well what I said to the board at the end of the 1996 season: ‘If we want to be competitive in this new division I need to bring in new blood and I would like to go back to New Zealand and bring some players back with me. The rest is now history.’

Of David Fatialofa, Stan says: “Dave came to the club because of our friendship and a chance telephone call. I was at home in Whitehaven when my phone rang one evening and on the other end was a familiar voice. Dave was playing in France and was not really enjoying his time there. He asked me if I needed a prop and if I did he would like to come and play for me. He has been an outstanding player.”

In the testimonial brochure HaveNZ Three, Fatialofa said: “I am hoping that after my playing days I can continue with the club in some capacity on the backroom staff. Whatever happens I’ve had 12 good years with a great club and fantastic supporters.”

*Graeme Mattinson and Scott Teare, both sent off at Leigh in the last away game, were waiting to learn their fate from last night’s RFL disciplinary panel.

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