Namulauulu Alama Ieremia is a success story. A world-class rugby player, he played thirty tests for the All Blacks and five for Manu Samoa.
Away from sports, Alama has two university degrees, a proud father to two boys and a son who rushes home to Samoa to share every ounce of spare time with his father, Reverend Elder Lale Ieremia.
Alama is in Samoa on a three-week break before Super rugby’s pre-season training starts in earnest.
In a telephone interview with the Samoa Observer, he’s reveling being back on Samoan soil.
“It’s always good being in Samoa,” he said. “It’s nice catching up with my father and family and spend some time in the plantation and helping out with chores.”
Samoa is home it’s where it all started.
“All roads for me start and always come back to Samoa,” he said. “Whenever I’m home, I’m re-energised and my soul’s revitalised, something that’s always benefited me before heading back [to New Zealand and work].”
In Super rugby, Alama has the distinction of scoring the first try in the competition when he played for the Hurricanes against the Blues in 1996.
And today, he’s successfully made the transition from player to Hurricanes’ assistant coach. Already his astute stewardship has been a major factor in young players careers like Hurricanes winger Julian Savea who made his All Blacks debut this year.
Another, Jeffery Latu Toomaga-Allen is expected to graduate to All Blacks honours soon.
“It’s a big call, I know, but I think Jeffery will be an All Black very quickly,” says Alama.
“He’s certainly got the capacity to play at that next level. He’s had a huge ITM season. He’s just been named the Lions Player of the Year for the 2012 campaign.
“His work rate is phenomenal and he’s a new breed of front rowers coming on the scene now where his defensive statistics is right up there with the loose forwards – it’s unbelievable.”
Even though Alama’s focus is primarily on his Super15 role with the Hurricanes, he always makes a point to follow developments in the Samoan community and helps out whenever he can.
This year, he made two significant contributions to Wellington’s Samoan and Pacific communities.
First he resurrected the Samoan selection ‘team’ within the Wellington region. Second, he revived the ‘Village King’ rugby tournament.
An event that took place two weekends ago. The 12-team tournament allowed only three representative players in the mix. It was a good move as there was no shortage of Hurricanes and Lions players wanting to play. And as it turned out the tournament was of high quality and a great success.
“What the majority of people liked about the tournament was the quality of the rugby achieved in 15 minutes before anyone got tired and even towards the end of the tournament we still saw quality rugby – certainly the feedback’s been fantastic,” he said.
The Village Kings for 2012 was won by Malie Sharks who fielded three Hurricanes players in Ardie Savea, Motu Matu’u and Alapati Leiua. The plate went to Wainui Samoans who defeated Hutt Samoans. And Nofoalii won the bowl over Saleimoa.
The quality of rugby was epitomized by the Falelatai team who fielded players Jefferey Toomaga-Allen, Eric Sione, Sene Ta’ala and Steven So’oialo yet failed to win a prize.
The tournament also unearthed a possible future star in young halfback Simon Tevita from the Oriental Rongotai club. He won the Most Valuable Player award that was sponsored by Alama and All Black great Christian Cullen.
“That’s the whole purpose of this,” says Alama.
“Right throughout the tournament, Simon played outstanding rugby and really stood out. Hopefully he will move up to bigger things as there is a shortage of quality halfbacks in the region,” says Alama.
But the main goal of the initiative is to build fellowship and strengthen bonds amongst the villages and their young talents coming through.
Says Alama: “It’s all part of a plan to rebuild the Wellington Samoan rugby union.”
Also watching was a large contingent of players from the Fijian and Tongan communities.
“They were pretty excited about the initiative. So for next year we’re looking to get some of them in the tournament,” says Alama.
“From the success and positive feedback we got from this tournament, I expect next year’s event will be bigger. And with minor adjustment to logistics, I know it will also be better.”
But with the expected growth and support already garnered, Alama is cautious that the right infrastructural processes are put in place first.
“We will have a total debrief and hand over to the tournament committee. We will probably take this matter to the Board as well and then to our greater union and have a discussion in terms of whether we want to keep the tournament based on a community focus or whether we maybe angle it to corporates.
“But my gut feeling right now is that the success of this and its whole purpose is to focus on the community and I think we can achieve that over the next three years, then, maybe think about bigger things.”
The ‘bigger’ picture includes the huge Pacific rugby talent in the region.
In the Wellington province, 33 percent of all senior players are of Pacific Island descent (1202 in total), and 36 percent of juniors (1742).
It means that future Village King tournaments and the Samoan Selection fixtures will provide valuable avenues for a large number of players on the fringes of mainstream representative sides to be noticed. A trialing ground that unearths new talents, “like Simon Tevita,” says Alama.
The 2012 Village King tournament was a preview to what the future possibilities could be according to Alama.
“There were a lot of under20 boys that came through the grades who played in this year’s tournament. Obviously there are a few initiatives that we want to tag along to this tournament.
“My aim is also to have an age grade competition, maybe the under-13s level where we have a huge level of representation in Wellington.”
He adds: “And obviously women’s rugby as well is one segment we’re very keen to have a look at as well.”
The other successful level for Village Kings was the attendance and support from rugby and community leaders.
“Chris Boyd the Head Coach for the Wellington Lions presented the Cup trophy. Wellington Councilor John Morrison presented the plate trophy and Argentina’s Ambassador presented the plate trophy,” says Alama.
“I think it’s fantastic that we had a good quality crowd that included the city councilors, reverends and faifeau from various denominations so we had the works there. It was a fun festival type of day and that contributed to its success.”
2013 is a big year for Alama. There will be higher expectations for the Hurricanes’ to do better than the very credible eighth place achieved in 2012.
But of equal significance is the resurrection of Samoan rugby and fostering a greater and better village fellowship in the Wellington region.
Namulauulu Alama knows the benefits of his community initiatives will be an advantage to the Hurricanes franchise but of more significance, the initiatives will benefit a greater number of Samoans in New Zealand and back home in Samoa where it all started for him.