Sione Lauaki always left us wanting more.

The big man played just 17 tests, but like Jonah Lomu, we can only wonder how many he would have played had his kidney condition not taken hold.

You will have read and seen by now a reminder of his powerful fend that laid Richie McCaw on his backside in the 2007 Chiefs-Crusaders clash.

You may have forgotten that, in the same game, he executed an extraordinary play of which Dan Carter would have been proud. Receiving a loose ball behind him, Lauaki pirouetted and then, unsighted, kicked, off his left, weaker foot, a pinpoint grubber for Sitiveni Sivivatu to score.


That action, as much as that prodigious fend, secured his RWC position.

Lauaki, from a proud west Auckland family of similar size to the Tu'ungafasis, played for the Waitemata premiers in his first year out of Kelston BHS in 2000. He came under the wing of Michael Jones, who was coaching then.

You can bet he learned a heap off the club's finest son. By 2002-03, Lauaki, used in a roving role on the blindside flank, was starring in Gallaher Shield finals, tasting victory in 2003.

Source: All Blacks

Then at the Western Leader, I had the pleasure of watching his dynamic, skilled rugby at close range and it was mystifying how he never got more of a run in Wayne Pivac's successful Auckland side of the time.

Fifteen games, barely enough for a blazer, were his lot. However, there was competition in the form of Mose Tuiali'i and skipper Xavier Rush, who was seen as a safer pair of hands.

We know he went to the Chiefs, and used that and a rousing trio of tests for the Pacific Islanders in 2004, as a springboard to the black jersey. His blockbusting play in the 2009 semifinal against the Hurricanes saw the franchise into its first final.

But the Eden Park faithful could only applaud and shake their head at what they were missing out on in 2004, when he scored a ripper against the Blues on the ground.

Going backwards and then sideways, he then straightened. He could shift, and then he dummied, feinted and embarrassed the defence for a remarkable solo try.


Clearly, we never saw the best of him in the All Blacks. He never had Rodney So'oialo's engine or Jerry Collins' hard-nosed accuracy.

However, like Stephen Donald, he was much maligned for his part in an All Blacks defeat, namely the 34-19 reverse to the Wallabies in Sydney. Lauaki was poor that day, but he was not Robinson Crusoe in that regard.

You will find most of his other 16 tests yielded good, strong displays, mostly off the pine. His many critics are swift to forget that.

His old Chiefs coach, Ian Foster, made him skipper. He was castigated at the time - it didn't work out due to injury, but could well have been a masterstroke.

Foster knew how to draw the best out of his charge and he, along with Waitemata club men such as Wally Jelicich and Brent Semmons, were fully paid-up members of his Fan Club.

Jelicich, a life member of Auckland Rugby, even reckoned Lauaki was just as skilful a player as the great Michael Jones. Big call, but for one who was pushing 120kg, Lauaki could do the lot, including laying on a deft pass.

He gave back to his beloved Waitemata club a few years back, upon his return from France, playing for both the premiers and reserves, although his illness and ballooning weight did not allow many glimpses of his glory days.

Lauaki had his off-field issues, but always remained humble, and with a ready smile and handshake for this scribe.

It says much for his grounded manner that he was, as recently as a few weeks ago, looking to give back to the game through coaching the junior grades at Kelston BHS.

RIP "Wax".