SPORTS PEOPLE OF 2020: Laauli Rudy Leavasa
There are people and then there are characters. The Samoan rugby community lost a unique and an unforgettable character this year with the passing away of Administrator, Manager and Coach, La’auli Rudy Faatali Leavasa.
While the son of Tofaeono Vui Faatali and Elsa Aiono Leavasa left a mark in the development of the sport in Samoa, whether its Sevens rugby, age grade teams or women’s rugby, he has a very special place in the heart of the Vaiala community where he has become a household name.
At his funeral, Ulalei Rugby Club spokesperson, Tafaomalo Laifa Faletolu, was among many people who testified about his humorous nature that impacted people he came across.
“Off the field, we were all the same in the eyes of the Laauli, management or a player, we would all joke together. And on the field we all knew our places,” said Tafaomalo. “He was full of jokes, full of lies, you cannot compete with Laauli. He will out joke all of us. His jokes would also affect some of the boys’ relationships.”
On a serious note, La’auli’s leadership was credited for taking the Ulalei Rugby Club to new heights. Reverend Iese Uele, who grew up with Laauli, paid tribute to his contribution to the development of the youth of Vaiala, where many of them have gone on to play for Samoa and other professional teams around the world.
Samoa Rugby Union’s Chief Executive Officer, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai, hailed La’auli as a man with a big heart and a brave soul.
World Rugby Hall of Famer, Muliagatele Brian Lima, remembered his humorous nature.
“Whenever someone meets with Rudy, he will always have something to say that begins a conversation with laughs and happiness and he is a humble man, although he is known to everyone as the kuku afi (joker),” Muliagatele said.
“His service to the rugby community is undeniably a blessing and a massive contribution to the careers of our players and aspiring ones.
“With our relationship, we’re lost for words to describe how incredibly fond we were and still are to have Rudy into our lives and careers. As a former Manu Samoa player and on behalf of the rugby community, may you [Laauli] find your place up in heaven where you belong.”
Not many people will disagree with Muliagatele.
But perhaps what Laauli would be most proud of is being the father to his three girls: Elsamaria, Elizabeth and Trenilta.
La’auli’s widow, Yvette Kerselake-Leavasa, reaffirmed all the fun stories about her man. Yvette said their love story began very early as they were “only one house apart” and would often meet on the Vaiala seawall.
They were married in December 2013.
“Rudy was a family man. His proudest moment in our family was our wedding. He was so happy, he invited his family to our honeymoon, so I invited mine,” she said.
A former student of Apia Primary, Leifiifi Intermediate, Leifiifi College and Nelson College, New Zealand, the late La’auli Rudy Leavasa will continue to be missed! Rest in love, legend La’auli!