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Pasia Asiata prospering at Pōneke

A  familiar sight this year – Pasia Asiata running strongly, in a recent Swindale Shield match between Pōneke and Wainuiomata. Photo: Shotdott.

Pasia Asiata’s New Zealand rugby dream in New Zealand is alive and well.

The dynamic loose forward came to New Zealand from his home in Samoa in 2019 aged 21, and almost five years later is a valued member of the Pōneke Premier side while working long and demanding hours in his job at Wellington Regional Hospital to support his partner and their young daughter Janet.

After a previous stint playing for Stokes Valley, and another living and playing rugby in the South Island, Asiata has joined Pōneke this year and is a regular Premier selection in their side. Usually a blindside flanker, he showed his versatility this past Saturday by answering an injury crisis and playing on the left wing

Asiata playing in Pōneke’s recent home match against the Upper Hutt Rams. Photo: Shotdott.

Asiata – a nephew of former hard hitting Manu Samoa midfielder Brian Lima – fell in love with rugby while watching it on a neighbour’s television and later playing village rugby in Samoa.

“When I was young, it was quite hard growing up in the Islands. We didn’t have a TV, but I went next door and watched rugby on the neighbours TV and saw the grandstands in Wellington.  I watched the game on TV and I remember the older All Blacks guys like Joe Rokokoko and Ma’a Nonu and my uncle as well Brian Lima… thought that is what I want to do too,” Asiata told Club Rugby this week ahead of Poneke’s Old Timers’ Day this Saturday.

Asiata grew up in Savai’i but would visit his uncle Lima in Upolu during the school holidays and for the first time he was introduced to proper rugby.

“I was eight years old and after that I started to learn how to play rugby properly at intermediate.”

Asiata’s mum Taulalo and dad Tuvaa played Kilikiti, but saw potential in their son and his father was his first coach, teaching him the fundamentals of rugby and encouraging him to exercise and practice his skills.

At 21 Asiata, decided to make the move to New Zealand for work (and rugby) and was adopted by his aunty and uncle.

“I went straight from the Auckland Airport at 12 in the afternoon, had a rest, then at 7pm I took the bus straight to Wellington on the same day and my life had come all the way from Samoa to Wellington in one day.”

Following in the footsteps of other Samoan-Kiwis such as Jerry Collins and Rodney So’oialo, Asiata started as a wing and fullback before moving into the forwards for the most part, and he is comfortable playing anywhere in the back row.

He made his Pōneke Premier debut off the bench in round three of the 2023 Swindale Shield against Paremata-Plimmerton and quickly forced his way into the starting XV, soon becoming one of the side’s most valuable players. This season he’s started every match he’s been available for on the side of the scrum and his athleticism allowed him to fill in as a wing in the latest round against Marist St Pats where he scored one of Poneke’s two tries on the day, his fourth of the season from eight appearances.

Pasia Asiata 2024 highlights: 

Asiata started his Wellington club career with the Stokes Valley and quickly stood out.

In 2019 the Rhinos played in the old Senior 2 Grade, but in 2020 they joined the Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield competition and finished tenth of 14 teams with three wins and a draw.

In the second round, the Rhinos went one better, beating the Johnsonville club 20-16 to finish the season ninth and win the Johnsonville Centennium Cup on WRFU Finals Day at the Petone Rec.

Asiata was also awarded the Player of the Year accolade at the end of season Stokes Valley awards.

By 2021, he had moved into Wellington from the Hutt Valley, got a job at the hospital, and joined Poneke where his partner’s brother Suitulala Filemoni had become a regular fixture as one of the Premier team’s starting wings.

Juggling work and a young child he spent a season with Poneke’s Premier Reserves before shifting South to Ashburton for work, playing for the Belfast club then Hampstead.

“Some Saturdays I played loose forward, other Saturdays I played second five, sometimes I played wing – it’s good to learn everything because you can defend, you can carry, whatever skills you need in the moment.”

Loyalty is important to Asiata, so when he returned to Wellington he returned to Poneke and in 2023 he made his mark in the Swindale Shield with a season that cemented him as a crowd favourite at Kilbirnie Park under the tutelage of former Wellington and Hurricanes forwards Reggie Goodes and Ace Tiatia.

“I don’t want to be moving between different clubs, all I want to do is keep learning and to work hard. I am happy at Pōneke. I love the community and the friends I have made and I appreciate the coaching and that they push me harder and encourage me to play well and have fun doing so.”

Away from rugby, Asiata has a three-year-old daughter, Janet, while work commitments also keep him extremely busy.

He works long and unsociable hours at the hospital as a cleaner, working shift work and covering staff absences.

“I am working nightshift and only have one day off a week, so I can only make Pōneke training one night a week.”

All the while, the rugby dream burns brightly.

“My aim when I was young was to play higher levels of rugby. I’m going to put pressure on my myself to work hard and aim to play for higher teams.”

This coming Saturday on Old Timer’s Day at Kilbirnie Park, Pōneke play Oriental-Rongotai for the Jimmy Grbich Memorial Shield.

Grbich too started his rugby career in the backs before moving to become a successful loose forward, representing Wellington and the Maori All Blacks. He was tragically killed in a car crash near the Tawa motorway interchange at the peak of his career in 1962.

Pōneke v Oriental-Rongotai, Kilbirnie Park, 2.45pm Saturday.

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