Samoan Sir cool as ice with new title
Days after he was conferred one of the highest honours in New Zealand – or anywhere else in the world for that matter – you wouldn’t have noticed it if you met one of Samoa’s most lovable sons.
For La’auli Savae Michael Niko Jones, former Manu Samoa coach and legendary All Black commonly referred to as the Iceman, being knighted for his contribution to the economic and social development of the Pacific will not change him.
And it certainly looked that way when he was in Apia this week, mobbed by well-wishers who wanted to congratulate him after the news.
Unlike most high profile people of his ilk, Sir Michael was only too happy to talk to the Weekend Observer when he was asked for a brief chat.
He was in Samoa for the launch of Matson’s new shipping services.
Asked how it felt to be called a Sir, he chuckles.
“I still see myself as just a shy Samoan boy from Moata’a, nothing has changed,” he said.
“I must admit my thoughts went straight away to my late mother, Maina, my uncles and aunties.
“I feel very humbled, I truly feel honoured and privileged to receive this from the Queen. This is not for me only, this also dedicated to Samoa.”
The legendary rugby figure who has developed a solid reputation in the business community said he is always Samoan at heart.
“I lost my own father when I was only four years old so my mother, uncles and aunties in a little house in West Auckland raised me,” he said.
“They’ve raised me with that Samoan love, Samoan loto aiga and loto alofa and all those important values. All glory to God for being born Samoan.”
When he was told about the honour, he said he felt delighted for the people of Samoa and all the hardworking Pacific islanders in New Zealand and all over the world.
“Being born Samoan, and living with my wonderful Samoan heritage is the best feeling ever,” he said.
“When I was awarded this, all I could think off was my Samoan mother, Maina, my Samoan family and the fact as a Christian, I recognise that it’s God’s favour and it’s part of God’s love for my life.
“It’s been important to walk into it, because naturally it’s not something you aspire to or dream of, you just live your life, you do the best you can, you serve, you love.
“Sometimes these things come your way so you just take it and honour God with it.”
Sir Michael said he has been blessed with opportunities.
Sporting talent, which he attributes to God, is one of them.
“The All Blacks and rugby have been good to me. Its gives me a platform to walk with young people particularly in the Pacific and New Zealand.”
"Sport is such a powerful tool and we see it as a real key for us along with music. For whatever reason, it is in our DNA as Pacific people. We have a real passion for it."
Sir Michael said rugby has also taught him self-confidence and resilience.
And that also comes knowing you have a good support base.
In his case, he attributes this to his aiga and the village-like environment he was brought up in.
"I still prefer to be remembered or seen as the westie boy from out west Auckland, Kiwi Samoan and that's me - nothing changes."