Props traditionally don't like the spotlight and if they do they rarely find themselves in it, but Mike Tamoaieta wasn't your normal prop.
The 23-year-old affectionally known as Mikey T, who died suddenly yesterday, first burst into the wider rugby public's collective consciousness at the Brisbane Rugby 10s tournament last year when he scored a try so outrageous for its skill and daring that the short video of it was sent around the world via social media, as is the way now.
Receiving a pass about 30m out from the opposition's try-line, Tamoaieta, in a lot of traffic, bamboozles one opponent with a fend and then the rest of the defence with an outrageous dummy in which he almost turns 180 degrees before sprinting away.
But what really endeared him and the try to the hearts of rugby fans worldwide was his celebration in lifting his left arm into the air before he bumps his ample frame over the line and between the posts; his distinctive long hair flying all the way. The Blues won the tournament.
Tamoaieta's try is only one reminder of his talent and sense of fun that will remain forever in the hearts and minds of his teammates and all of those who knew him.
Sizzling prop try from Blues front row Mike Tamoaieta at the Brisbane 10s.— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) February 12, 2018
Can't get enough of that cheeky celebration and finish. pic.twitter.com/f7iGAuKwlC
The Samoan-born Tamoaieta played 10 Super Rugby games for the Blues last year, his first at this level. He is a Samoa under-20s representative and played for first XV at Sacred Heart College in Auckland.
He didn't make the Blues squad this year – he had stiff competition from the likes of All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu'inukuafe – but he was involved in both pre-season victories over the Chiefs and Hurricanes a few weeks ago and, while this is stating the obvious, his Blues mates in Buenos Aires preparing to play the Jaguares tomorrow will be devastated by the news of his death.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Several Blues players went into battle with Tamoaieta for North Harbour, including fellow front-rowers James Parsons and Sione Mafileo, and lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, all in Buenos Aires, and outside back Matt Duffie.
Blues forwards coach Tom Coventry was also closely involved with Tamoaieta at North Harbour.
The disbelief among Tamoaieta's teammates in Argentina will quickly turn to shock and grief and a sense that they are very far away from home. It seems almost inappropriate at this time to consider the game at Jose Amalfitani Stadium but they have one more job to do before they return. It won't be easy.
Mike Tamoaieta is survived by his partner Helen Helen Ti'eti'e and daughter Aihana.