A Good Samaritan, mentor, a hero with a big heart, were some of the sentiments shared by former and current rugby Samoan players in honour of La’auli Alan Nicholas Links Grey.
He was laid to rest at his residence at Afiamalu following his final mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Mulivai. La’auli was 82.
World rugby Hall of Famer, Muliagatele Brian Lima, said La’auli loved the players as if they were his own children.
“In the 1990s was the first time I was selected to be a part of the 7s team and it was the first time I met a rich man who was humble,” he said.
“Before we left Samoa for games overseas, it was mandatory that we meet in front of Aggie Grey’s Hotel for Alan’s final words of encouragement and of course an envelope consisting of U.S. dollars for each of the players.
“And he never missed seeing us off and he did that for as long as I can remember. Even after I retired from rugby career, Alan was still doing a good deed for the players.
“He never gave up on rugby no matter the results, he never gave up on us,” said Muliagatele. He told the Samoa Observer that Alan did anything and everything for the players.
“Aggie Greys is Samoa’s iconic hotel and of course others felt that we did not deserve to stay there, but not Alan, and of course the team stayed there numerous times.
“It is a clear indication of who he is as a person, for someone who did not have to share his wealth with us, but he did.
“He helped the players even after rugby. Some of the players worked for him and several players received land as a result of Alan’s giving heart.
“He gave without hesitation to anyone,” said Muliagatele.
According to the former Manu Samoa Star, one time Alan sat him down and lectured him about “having guts” and “not giving up on rugby no matter what”.
Muliagatele told the Samoa Observer that every time he returned from overseas and no matter the results, he always made time to visit Alan and thanked him for the envelope and his undying support for the team.
“One thing I will never forget about this man is how he hates public acknowledgment.
“I recall after Hurricane Evan, where the hotel was damaged, the Samoa Rugby Union met and decided for the players to help clean up the hotel and of course he refused the assistance.
“But that did not stop us,” said Muliagatele.
He told the Samoa Observer some of his fondest memories shared with Alan were when the team ran from Apia Park all the way to his residence in Tiavi.
“If you talk to other players they will attest to that,” said Muliagatele.
Former Manu Samoa player and Director of Coaching for Moata’a Rugby Club, Fainu’ulelei Filipo Saena, has so much to say about La’auli’s love for the players as well.
“La'auli Alan Grey was truly the father of the Nation,” said Fainu’ulelei to the Samoa Observer.
“I remember we use to get envelopes in U.S. and N.Z. of Australian dollars from Alan and he did it out of his pocket.
“I was injured and playing in New Zealand and then all of a sudden I was getting a weekly salary due to my injury until I left for New Zealand for my operation.
“No one can just put you on their payroll when you don’t work for them, but I did and I can never thank him enough for his love for me and all of my rugby brothers.
“I looked up to him as a father and mentor.
“Our relationship did not end there and Alan played a huge role in my life and for that my second eldest son was named after him. And given his passing, I don’t think there will ever be another Alan Grey,” said Fainu’ulelei.
Last week, Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, described La’auli as a hero.
“Without La’auli, Samoan rugby wouldn’t be where it is today,” said Loau, who is a former Manu Samoa player.
“He was the key in the development of the sport. He invested so much of his money and love into the development of rugby in Samoa.
“He loved rugby passionately and that is evident with his never ending support whether it is through financial or otherwise.”
Loau recalled the early days of the Manu Samoa.
“I recall back in the early 80s when the Union could not afford to pay for our airfares to travel in the Pacific to play against Fiji and Tonga, La’auli stepped up,” he said.
“From airfares to uniforms to rugby gears, this man loved rugby like it was his son. His vision for Samoa and rugby has come to pass where we have now been placed on the map. That would not have happened without La’auli.”
Loau lamented the loss of a great soul.
“I am saddened by the passing of one of Samoa’s legends. My condolences to his family.”