Rugby league legend Ruben Wiki will come out of retirement this weekend to play for his mother’s homeland, Samoa, against the best from New Zealand’s national competition in a tsunami benefit match to be televised by Maori Television.
New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is supporting the relief effort with the special fundraising game – LEAGUE 4 SAMOA – at Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium this Saturday October 10. Maori Television will screen the clash between Samoan Residents (Toa Samoa Domestic) and the Bartercard Premiership Selection the following day, Sunday October 11, from 2.00 PM to 4.00 PM. This replaces the previously advertised programme. The commentary team will include Peter Ropati and Dale Husband.
New Zealand’s most capped international, Wiki (36) will realise a life-long dream when he runs out wearing the colours of Samoa. He will be the only expatriate in the Toa Samoa side. “This will definitely be a dream come true,” says the presenter of Maori Television’s sports entertainment show, Hyundai CODE (Thursdays at 8.30 PM). “I’ve always wanted to play for Samoa. It’s the only thing in league that I haven’t done.”
NZRL chief executive Jim Doyle says Ruben wanted to be involved in some way to help support their efforts to raise funds for the people of Samoa who suffered so terribly from the tsunami disaster. “He played for New Zealand with so much pride and commitment but he has always been passionate about his Samoan heritage,” says Doyle. “We couldn’t think of a better man to be involved in spearheading our relief effort.”
Rugby League Samoa (RLS) was keen for the game to go ahead despite the tsunami disaster. “This Samoan side is made up entirely of players resident in Samoa and, given what has happened this week, we told them we would understand if they decided not to go ahead with the match we had arranged some time ago. But the Samoans came back and told us it was important for them to play the match. They see this as helping them to connect with the Samoan community in New Zealand at this dreadful time.”
Doyle said gate proceeds from this Saturday’s event along with other funds from a bucket collection would go to the Samoan tsunami relief fund. Four days later, the NZRL will be involved in another fundraising appeal when it uses the one-off test between the Kiwis and Tonga in Rotorua on October 14 to raise funds for victims of Tonga’s ferry disaster. “This has been a sad time for our Pacific neighbours, Samoa and Tonga,” says Doyle. “Both countries have a very strong association with our game and all we can do is try to help in whatever way we can.”
Maori Television will screen delayed coverage of LEAGUE 4 SAMOA on Sunday October 11 from 2.00 PM to 4.00 PM.