help better the situation of the family.
He’s done that – contributing financially to the running of the
family household in which he still lives – in the garage – with
many of his nine siblings.
To judge Piutau for not making the same career decisions as
McCaw is as nonsensical as to wonder why a GP can’t do open
heart surgery. The NZRU, as they admit, can’t continue to only
view the world from one socio-economic perspective.
We have got to keep talking to the players and making sure
that we remain relevant,” says general manager of professional
rugby Neil Sorensen. “That we don’t try to press old man ideas
on young men. I am a 53-year-old administrator who played a bit
of footy a hundred years ago, I can’t assume that some such as
Brodie Retallick has interests that are aligned to mine.
“Someone challenged us recently – in a good way as an
organisation and this person said you [NZRU] are best described
as male, pale and stale and it was a good way to remind ourselves
that we are dealing with young men now that could potentially
be our grand-kids. We have to be relevant and open to all sorts
of things that you and I may never have thought possible 20
years ago.”
f the three failings levelled at the NZRU, being pale is
perhaps the most significant problem. New Zealand’s
cultural and socio-economic diversity presents an
exclusively New Zealand-European executive from
having a proper handle on the expectations and ambitions of
Shifting to Ulster will
provide Piutau with a
chance to change the
lives of many in his family.
younger, Polynesian New Zealanders.
Life in a typical Samoan or Tongan
household is vastly different to that of a
typical European home. There are many
emerging players in New Zealand whose
parents arrived here from the Islands with
pretty much nothing. Piutau’s parents
came determined to create a better life for
themselves and their children. When a
million dollars was put on the table, what
was Piutau to do?
He was acutely conscious of the sacrifice
his parents had made to give the family
the life they now enjoy. Expectations and
dynamics are such in a typical Tongan
family that the young don’t fly the nest the
first chance they have. Thats not the way
at all.
Families stick together. The young are
encouraged to stay at home, even when
they have the financial means to move out.
Island families aren’t proprietorial
about money – the attitude is communal,
cyclical even. The parents invest in the
children and then the children invest in
the parents. The concept of a retirement
home is anathema to a Pacific Island
There’s no sense of resentment among
the young at such a system: it’s their duty
– their obligation to contribute financially
and remain connected to the family unit.
It’s not uncommon by any means – fairly
typical in fact – for an emerging player to
buy his family a bigger house, sometimes
even more than one.
Former Crusaders flanker Johnny Leo’o
says that despite being on a full Super
Rugby contract and in his early-20s, he
was living an entirely different life to his
Palangi peers.
“My mum wouldn’t let me leave home
until I was married,” he says. “She wanted
to keep an eye on me because she was
worried I would fall into the wrong traps.
It’s tough because all your friends are
doing fun things and after we played, I
was going to choir practice and then
church on a Sunday.
But that’s how it is in a Samoan family...
parents don’t encourage you to leave home
and be independent. They want the family
to stick together and financially help each
other out.
“ I wasn’t taking much of my own pay.
Money was going to church stuff, back to
the Islands for funerals and weddings and
the like. Thats how we were brought up -
to never turn our back on the family and
that our parents looked after us, so we
would be looking after them.”
Many young Pacific Island players – just
as Leo’o did – feel conflicting emotions as
their careers progress. There is this deep
respect for their parents and for their
desire to instil a traditional way of life.
But just as many young men want to
honour their parents’ wishes, they also
want the freedom and independence of
their peers from European backgrounds.
Even when Leo’o did marry and leave
the family home: My mum was still
coming over to do my laundry and I guess
Johnny Leo’o says his
parents didn’t want him
to leave home until he
was married.
[ path finders ]