Jason Robinson leads the tributes for dual-code rugby legend Va’aiga Tuigmala after the former All Blacks Wigan Warriors star passes away at the age of 52 – just weeks after his younger sister was killed in an accident at a church
- Dual-code rugby star Va’aiga Tuigmala has passed away at the age of 52
- Former club Wigan Warriors posted a statement on their Twitter to pay tribute
- His death comes just weeks after his younger sister was killed in an accident
Tributes have poured in for dual-code rugby international Va’aiga Tuigamala, famously known as Inga the Winger, who has died at the age of 52.
Tuigamala, who played for New Zealand and also represented Samoa, was a member of the all-conquering Wigan Warriors team of the early 1990s.
The club which he played 102 games for between 1993 and 1997, scoring 62 tries, confirmed his death on Thursday morning.
All Black Wigan Warriors legend Va’aiga Tuigamala (right) has died at the age of 52
They tweeted: ‘This morning, Wigan Warriors are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic news that former player Va’aiga (Inga) Tuigamala has passed away.
‘Wigan Warriors send their deepest condolences to the family and friends at this awful time.’
As reported by The Sun, news of his death comes just weeks after his younger sister, pastor Helen Verry died on January 30 after being injured at a church in West Auckland.
Tuigamala played for both New Zealand and Samoa during his career while also switching between rugby union and league
He enjoyed much success in England for Wigan, Newcastle (pictured holding the trophy after the Tetleys Bitter Cup final) and Wasps
Former Wigan team-mate Jason Robinson has led the tributes to the rugby legend
His sister was the youngest of 15 siblings and it’s said that a workplace accident is being investigated.
Another former dual-code international and Wigan team-mate Jason Robinson has led the tributes to Tuigamala.
He tweeted: “Absolutely heartbroken! I owe so much to this amazing man! Literally helped change my life when he came to @WiganWarriorsRL from NZ. Sending all my love and condolences to the family at such a sad time. RIP brother.’
Apollo Perelini, who played alongside Tuigamala for Samoa’s rugby league side, tweeted: ‘Saddest news to hear. We started primary school together and took our rugby journey to the UK – Saints for me and Wigan for you my brother. RIP my dearest brother, Inga (the winger) Tuigamala.’
The Newcastle Falcons’ Twitter page also commented: ‘It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of Va’aiga (Inga) Tuigamala. A true great of both codes who helped us win the 1997-98 Premiership title, Inga will be fondly remembered for his physicality on the field, and his friendship off it. RIP Inga.’
Tuigamala was born in Samoa, and began his career playing rugby union in New Zealand.
He won 19 caps for the All Blacks and starred at the 1991 World Cup, before swapping codes and converting to rugby league.
He signed for Wigan Warriors in 1993, where he enjoyed a successful four-year stint.
At Wigan he won two Challenge Cups, two Regal Trophies, a Premiership winners medal and also helped the club beat the Brisbane Broncos in the World Club challenge.
Tuigamala won 19 caps for the All Blacks and starred at the 1991 World Cup where they finished third
Tuigamala (centre) pictured with John Milner (left) from the Bedlington Terriers and Newcastle legend Alan Shearer
Tuigamala pictured with former prime minister of Samoa Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in 2014
Tuigamala, who also played twice for Samoa’s rugby league team, returned to union in 1995 where he signed a five-year deal with Newcastle that cost the club £1m, and went on to win league titles with both the Falcons and Wasps.
He made his debut for West Samoa and was part of their squad at the 1999 World Cup before his retirement in 2001.
Tuigamala became a funeral director after retiring from rugby, prompted by the death of ten of his friends in 2003.
He ran a funeral company, Tuigamala & Sons, in West Auckland and organised the funeral of the late king of Tonga, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV.