London Telegraph Rugby Page



Va'aiga Tuigamala

I played professional Rugby League and Rugby Union for several years. I played Rugby Union in New Zealand for five years. In that time I played 19 internationals for New Zealand on the wing, including the 1991 World Cup in Britain and France. My last appearance as a Rugby Union player was on the New Zealand All Blacks tour of Britain in 1993. I managed to mark my departure by scoring a try.

I remember it very clearly because I knew it was my last game. As we ran out the other players didn't know it was my last game but I knew because I had signed and sealed the contract at that time. I knew it would be really nice to go out on a night note. It would be really nice to score in your last game for the All blacks knowing that you are going to move on.

I was given the opportunity, given the ball early and had a little bit of space. Scott Gibbs, a great friend of mine, was playing and I thought if only I could squeeze past him and get to the try line and it was a relief to get over in the last game and it was for my family and my country.

Shortly afterwards it was announced that I was signing for Wigan on a lucrative four year contract to play Rugby League. I joined the team half way through the 1993-94 season and helped Wigan complete a treble of league, cup and premiership. It was a far cry from his early life in Western Samoa...

I was born on the Polynesian island of Western Samoa in 1969. I was one of 14 children and fortunate in that the presence of God was instilled in me at an early age. Even when we moved to New Zealand when I was 4 years old, church and Sunday were important parts of our lives.

But my passion was for sport, and like many youngsters, so caught up with it that I had little time for working out "the meaning of life" in New Zealand.

I am very fortunate that ever since I was born, my parents had a big influence on me and the belief in God through church and their faith in Lord was there in Western Samoa, whether through Sunday School or through church they were able to instill in us God's principles and morals but for me like anyone, there comes a time when you make decisions. I thought that going to church on Sunday was all I needed to do to realize God's love to know who God really is, but it goes to show how shallow my thinking is and that I don't understand everything in life.

I got to be thankful that my parents had a lot to do with it and as I got into my teenage years, at school I had some friends who were very bad at that time, very bad in ways that I don't want to describe but there were involved in a lot of things that they shouldn't.

At the time our school went through a kind of revival and I remember one day looking for my friends and they were all attending a Bible Fellowship in the School. And they went to it and days went on to days and weeks on to months. I never saw the friends I used to hang around with and that was because every lunch time they spent getting into fellowshipping, reading the scriptures and encouraging and supporting each other in the faith and Christian fellowship.

And I saw a real change in them for they used to be really bad boys always in mischief and trouble and to see them change. I couldn't accept it. I thought these are my best friends. These are the people I always hang around and get into trouble with. I saw something in my friends that I'd not seen before. I saw peace and I saw joy, love that I never thought was able to be shown by these boys for they were really trouble makers I started thinking this isn't real. This isn't happening to my friends.

I was waiting as days and weeks on to months to see if they were going to backslide but they just kept on going and that really made me sit up and think I wanted to be part of it. I didn't want to miss out and it was through an economics teacher of mine. She explained to me the steps of salvation and I needed to recognize that I was a sinner and confess with my mouth that the Lord had died on the cross for my sins and to believe that if I was prepared to ask him into my life, he was ready to come into my life and make me his child

And from what I remember from when I gave my life to him I didn't really experience - you hear people saying that when they had flashes of lights, I didn't have any of that but I remember that night when I went to bed and when I woke up I just had this anointing peace, this awesome peace came over me. I felt it inside me and that was when I knew that I was forgiven. I knew that God had accepted me and by giving him my life and inviting the Lord to take me, guide me and direct me.

Over the years it's become a privilege and I remember when I gave my life to him all I wanted to do was serve him wholeheartedly. I was willing to give up my rugby too. I remember saying to him one morning, "Lord I want to give up my rugby and all that I have just to serve you". Little did know that God wasn't in that and he was saying, "No, no , no" you can have rugby as well. These are the things I have given you and these are the things I have blessed you with and the talent you have got is from God and I want you to use that talent and it is so true looking back on my life. That has enabled me to use that vehicle to spread the gospel and that is how I became a Christian and I am so thankful.

I have always liked to know that I can go out on the field and really express myself. We usually have that tag that Christians are wimps. A lot of it has to do with the generation that we live in its not cool to be a Christian and that is what a lot of people in the world think that being a Christian is for sissies and it is not right to a Christian but I am glad that God has opened my eyes to the reality of it all. That being a Christian is all about your relationship with God and you don't just lock yourself away. Being a Christian is about God giving you the talent, and being responsible to fulfill that talent and I'm just thankful that I can see it through being a sportsman. I have been blessed by what God has given me and the least I can do is to show people that God is real in my life and he is the centre of my life. He has enabled me to go out there and express myself and God encourages that and it says in the scriptures and Paul talks about it in the Bible, how as an athlete you run the race and to be competitive you must deny yourself and deny everything outside and be totally focussed on it. Its a bit like rugby for me. When I run out on the rugby pitch, I know that I am there for a the Lord. I know that the enemy is there to take me down it is a great challenge.

But I have learned that my witness has been a blessing for me and not only for me but to a lot of other players. They see me as the gentle giant but they also know that if anyone crosses me I am more than happy to take the game into my own hands and make the most of it. That's not going out and belting someone. But whatever I do, I get my own back and by running straight and hard and if they get the ball making sure that you tackle hard, within the rules. God wants you to go out there and be a warrior, be a soldier and some of the players have responded tremendously. I remember when I first came over here, I used to get beaten up and my wife will testify to this that I used to come home every week with a black eye, cuts to the face and bruises to the body, done deliberately.

I cried to the Lord, "what do I do, do I retaliate?" But he said, "No, No, No" Just stay focussed and I'll handle everything. And the guys who were beating me up when I first came, they are the same guys who are able to come up and shake my hands. They now thank me for the game and say, "Well played" And it's tremendous to have that kind of influence for they know I'm not that sort of person. I can take a lot but I'm not willing to give a lot as well.

I think a lot of it has to come down to God allowing me to be so focussed, to control myself and certainly from God's influence as well.

God himself, through his son Jesus, and through his Holy Spirit, has a big bearing on my life. I know that if it was not for God I wouldn't be in the position where I am and I wouldn't be able to live life and sees life the
way I do today. He's my motivator. He guides me into making the right decisions for my family, for the team for the community for the fellowship. God allows me to know where I am going in life. He gives me the peace to live my life and through His Holy Spirit, he guides me into all truth. He allows me to know what is right and what is wrong.

He gives me the fruit of the spirit, love joy peace and that is what I love to go out and express and show people that God is for today as well as what he was in the Old Testament. He is a loving God who is willing to intervene in your life as long as you are willing to give him the opportunity. For me it has been a privilege to serve him though my talents, through rugby, and to show people that God has a place in our society today.

And God is not a God that you can just lock up and put in a corner. He is a God who wants to give and give wholeheartedly. The Scriptures say, "I have come to give life and life abundantly".

I think we should all be aware of that and we should all know how God wants to give us the desires of our heart but at the same time he wants to use us and bless us and mold us into the child he wants us to be because it's not Inga's world, it's God world.

And it gives a real peace of mind to know that my salvation is what God has given to me. That is the gift that he has given to me through his son is my salvation. I know where I want to go and I know where I am going after I die and the book of Ephesians says, the passions of this world is passing away. I want to know that when my time is up that I am right with God, that I am honoured and privileged enough to be called his child.

He is the beginning and end of my life and not just for myself but for my family, my wife and my children. He gives me the motivation to live life as he wants me to and to see life through the eyes of Jesus his son.

The Bible is guidelines on life. It is God's word, God's love-letter for me and for everyone. And I am just privileged enough to be able to read it and understand it and that is what the Bible is for me. It gives the answers to my life, it solves my problems in life. That is what God encourages me to do and encourages everyone to do, to turn to his word, to turn to him and to seek him.

There is a Scripture "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will be added." That is a promise. It isn't something that God decided to put in there just to make everyone happy. He put it in there because it is a promise and I know that God keeps his promises from the beginning to the end and the Bible gives me the peace to know that.

I carry it in my kit bag. I have it at home. I have it in the toilet. I have it in the living room, I carry it with me wherever I go and it is great to know that you are able to know the scriptures and more importantly to be able to live it out and that is what it is all about for me in this rugby club to be able to live it out, God through me in a real way. For me to be able to show people. One of the Scripture I have come across is John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life" and that is a promise.

I know that the Bible is there to guide me and direct me and it changes me each day. Each day when I read the word God reveals himself to me each day in a real way than he did before.

Certainly it is my way of talking to the Lord. It is a very powerful thing that God encourages us to talk through to him. It is my way of communicating and asking him for directions and for answers. Certainly it gives me a peace to know that I can talk to him

It is like a telephone. You know when you really want to talk to someone and when they answer it you know that they are there and that they will listen to you. Prayer is a bit like that but it is more than that it is communication with God. It is your way of saying, "Lord are you there, are you listening to me." I use prayer for many reasons. I pray for the welfare of this team, for this club. I use prayer for healing, for guidance in making decisions in life. I use prayer so that I can have a two-way conversation with God and to know what is God's will is for me and that is the only way you are going to know it.

Through the Scriptures through His word and by talking to him he encourages us to use it and it is something that not a lot of us tend to use. We shout it out but there are a lot of things in life that keep us going that keep us occupied but I like to think that after a Scripture reading I can say a quick prayer.

I pray with my eyes open. I like to have a quick prayer when I am driving along. If I need something that needs to be prayed for to be able to do it

I remember a game against Widnes, in the Regal Trophy. We were losing and were sure to lose. We were playing at Widens and I banged my knee and had this awful pain. It was the pain I'd had before and usually when I get it I can't move. It seizes up straight away and I am not able to flex it at all or make any movement. I remember asking the Lord, only you can heal me right now, the pain and the hurt that I am going through. I really trust you that I will be able to get up and play because I see my role in this team. I see my responsibility to the team. Sure enough out of the blue I kept on running and before I knew the game was over. I'd had no problems. I remember walking off - the games was taken into extra time and I said "Thank you, Thank you" Those are the things that go unheard off and just through a quick prayer. God wants you to communicate and prayer is essential.

My advice to those reading this, ask and knock, the three things God has asked us. Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, Knock and it will be opened to you. You don't need to be a Christian to understand that. I believe that I went out and did that. I went out and searched for God, knocked on God's door, asked who God was and he came into my life, I invited him. It is the best thing I ever did to this day.

When he retired as a player, Inga returned to New Zealand as a coach

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