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Taulapapa new Chair of Oceania Rugby Judicial Committee

Former Attorney-General, Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, has made history as the first woman appointed Chair of the Oceania Rugby Judicial Committee.

Oceania Rugby, formerly the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions is headquartered in Sydney, and is one of six regional associations of World Rugby.

Senior Judicial Officer for World Rugby Nigel Hampton C.N.Z.M., O.B.E., Q.C., said that Taulapapa had been recognised for her intellect, advocacy and integrity.

Mr. Hampton nominated Taulapapa for the appointment and called  her a “trailblazer.”

“Oceania Rugby had an outstanding candidate who could, and should, become a rugby Judicial Officer at the highest level,” he said.

“I was privileged to be able to nominate her for I could not think of a more suitable person for that role.”

Taulapapa said she is “overwhelmed” by the historic appointment and looks forward to working closely with Oceania Rugby and World Rugby in supporting its priorities for Oceania.

“[I am] overwhelmed and very grateful to my parents for instilling in me a love of the game whether watching at Athletic Park or at the Oriental Rongotai and Poneke fields in Wellington, or watching the ‘middle of the night’ tests against the Lions on TV, the game was very much a part of our lives,” she said.

“[Rugby] brought great hope, great expectation and, if our team won, great joy.”

Taulapapa said hard work, diligence, her culture, gender and upbringing had guided her through her career. 

“I was brought up to expect that if there was a goal or objective which I desired, then through hard work and diligence it could be achievable and that my culture, my gender, and my upbringing would add exciting sprinkles to the whole mix,” she said.

As Chair, Taulapapa says she intends to remove all barriers to aspiring new entrants to the game; to small and remote unions; and for those with disabilities.

“Women and girls playing and choosing rugby is a story of passion drive and success, and with their growing involvement at all levels, in all capacities, the game has been enriched and made fit for its mission as ‘a sport for all’,” she said. 

Taulapapa graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Arts and Law Degree in 1986 and trained as a barrister and solicitor in Wellington.

She worked nine-and-a-half years (1997-2006) as the Attorney-General, the longest-serving holder of that position to date. 

She was appointed as the Chair for the Oceania Rugby Judicial Committee following a tenure of more than 10 years at the Oceania U-19s in Samoa in 2010.

Taulapapa said she is fortunate to have been encouraged and supported by many great judicial officers from the region.

Mr. Hampton first asked her if she was interested in 2008.

“What followed was a period of ‘learning and doing’ under the benevolent eye of experienced and generous senior counsel and the support of the staff of Oceania Rugby in Sydney and elsewhere,” she said.

“To have been considered for the role of Chair, was and is, truly an honor, and I believe it is as much about the broadening appeal of the game. 

“It is recognition of the incredibly complex layers of skilled and talented people who support the global game.”

She paid tribute to those from coaches, advisers, referees, club administrators, ball boys and girls and “all [who] work together to support all those who play the game.”

The rugby judiciary is very much a ‘behind the scenes’ necessity to ensure the laws of the game are fairly, impartially and consistently applied across the code at whatever level and for whatever match, she explained.

“The laws of the game ensure that Rugby’s core values of integrity, respect, solidarity, passion and discipline can flourish in any game of rugby wherever it is being played by whoever is playing it,” she said. 

“Whilst the Judiciary brings certain skills to the rugby field, we rely upon a range of committed and professional individuals both on and off the grass to encourage the game to be played safely, enjoyably and generously.

“I hope to bring my experience as a prosecutor and advocate to the role, my knowledge of the region, and will be heavily reliant upon the experience and talents of the members of the Oceania Judicial Committee to fill the gaps.”

In addition to supporting Oceania Rugby and World Rugby’s priorities, she looks forward to working with Christopher Quinlan, Q.C., and Joyce Hayes and the World Rugby team in Dublin. 

Taulapapa also expressed her thanks to the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.).

“I am grateful to the Samoa Rugby Union for my nomination as a judicial officer for the past 10 years, and to the dual international player and lawyer I am married to – George Latu - who provides 24/7 pro bono technical and professional support for all I do, for which I am truly blessed,” she said.

“I thank the Lord for His mighty provision and His hand of Grace which has rested softly on my life to date, and will, I pray, continue to do so and protect, nurture and guide me in whatever I do.”

Taulapapa’s husband, Matafeo George Latu, is former General Counsel for the A.N.Z. Bank Samoa; a former Principal State Solicitor and Acting Attorney-General; a graduate of Canterbury University, and a dual rugby international.

He has played rugby for both Tonga and Samoa and most notably in the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.

They have one son and one daughter.

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