Tributes continue to flow from around the rugby and league world for former All Blacks, Samoa and Wigan RL winger Va’aiga Tuigamala.
Tuigamala is perhaps best know for his exploits for the New Zealand and Samoan national teams in union, and the Wigan club in League.
He played 19 times for the All Blacks, 23 for Samoa, and 102 for Wigan.
A cause of death was not been announced but Tuigamala was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and had spoken publicly about struggling with obesity and high blood pressure after suffering a stroke in 2007.
He was about to release a video series in which he talks about his health concerns.
In a trailer for the series, Tuigamala said “the reality was, I was facing an early graveyard. And when I say early grave, my father died at the age of 48 from a stroke. He wasn’t obese, but he had a stroke and died and left 15 children to my mum to look after.
— Ben Atiga (@atiga1037) February 24, 2022
Saddest news to hear. We started primary school together and took our rugby journey to the UK. @Saints1890 for me and @WiganWarriorsRL for you my brother. RiL my dearest brother Inga(the winger) Tuigamala @Jason15Robinson pic.twitter.com/4b84itDYYE
— Apollo Perelini (@Apollo11Rugby) February 24, 2022
888 Heritage Number
2 Challenge Cups
2 Regal Trophies
1 World Club Challenge
A Wigan Legend.
Rest in peace, Inga. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/04aqSjWq2t
— Wigan Warriors 🍒⚪️ (@WiganWarriorsRL) February 24, 2022
It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of Va’aiga (Inga) Tuigamala.
A true great of both codes who helped us win the 1997-98 Premiership title, Inga will be fondly remembered for his physicality on the field, and his friendship off it.
RIP Inga 💔 pic.twitter.com/P8HwQziF67
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) February 24, 2022
A true great.
All our thoughts are with the family and friends of Va’aiga Tuigamala. Rest in Peace Inga. pic.twitter.com/sPg2DLPrEC
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 24, 2022
RIL Brother 🖤 🕊 pic.twitter.com/O53bTl9yX4
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) February 25, 2022
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster, who played provincial rugby against Tuigamala in their playing days, has paid tribute on behalf of the All Blacks:
“It’s incredibly sad to hear the loss of a very special man. He was an iconic player and personality of his time and continued to make a huge impact in his community after his playing days.
“The biggest memories for me are his smile, his joy of playing and his commitment to his family and his faith, which was the foundation of his life.
“We send all our love and condolences to his family.”
Statement of Wigan RL:
‘Inga the Winger’ played 102 games for Wigan during five seasons at the Club, between 1993 and 1997, scoring 62 tries.
With the Heritage Number 888, Tuigamala made his Wigan debut on 4th February 1994 at Naughton Park against Widnes. He scored a debut try in a 27-12 win.
He won three League titles with Wigan, as well two Challenge Cups, two Regal Trophies, one Premiership title and one World Club Challenge. Tuigamala was also a 1996 Super League Dream Team member.
Executive Director, Kris Radlinski, said: “Every now and then a player comes along who touches the heart and soul of every single fan, player, coach and administrator – Inga was one of them. He was one of the most exciting rugby players to play either code. His presence on the rugby field was huge. As a teenager, he gave me the most precious thing that anyone could, time. We would spend hours on the field doing one on one’s together. It is a very sad day for the Club. Rest in peace my friend.”
Wigan Warriors send their deepest condolences to Inga’s family and friends at this awful time.
Ahead of tonight’s game against Huddersfield Giants at the DW Stadium, there will be a minute’s silence to remember Inga.