Olsen Filipaina is arguably the greatest New Zealand International the game of Rugby League has ever seen.
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s Filipaina was a key component of the New Zealand national team set up and became known for his ability to contain the great Wally Lewis on the International stage.
He would also play in over 100 NSWRL games for the Balmain Tigers, Eastern Suburbs Roosters and North Sydney Bears.
Filipaina, unfortunately, lost a 16-day fight against kidney failure in intensive care last Thursday, passing away at 64-years-old.
The former five-eighth’s legacy will live on forever through his biography “The Big O: The Life and Times of Olsen Filipaina” which was released in May of 2020 to great acclaim.
Ahead of the Maori All Stars tribute to Olsen Filipaina at tonight's #NRLAllStars my offering on an extraordinary career & his impact on the game of rugby league. #RIPTheBigO #GallopingGarbo@NZRL_Kiwis @tigers1908 @NSWRL @NthSydneyBears @taliaualiitia https://t.co/LPre3i5lsz
— Patrick_Skene (@Patrick_Skene) February 12, 2022
Former New Zealand Warriors head coach Tony Kemp emphasized the importance of Filipaina to Rugby League in New Zealand when speaking on SENZ Breakfast yesterday morning, going as far as to say that Filipaina should be named an Immortal.
“He is arguably, I wrote about it, our best Kiwi,” Kemp said.
“At the time I said he should’ve been put in the Immortals, they haven’t got a Kiwi Immortal.
“If you look at Olsen’s career, he is the only bloke Wally Lewis struggled with, every game they faced each other.
“Wally Lewis is an Immortal, but Olsen got the upper hand and everyone knows that.
“If there was a person that needed to be immortalised as a rugby league player in New Zealand, it had to be Olsen in my eyes.”
Maori All Stars head coach David Kidwell has also recognised Filipaina’s importance to our game, with the side to play for the “Big O” tonight in their NRL All Stars clash with the Indigenous All Stars.
“Olsen was of Maori and Samoan heritage and he laid the footprint for what is now 45 per cent Maori, Pasifika and Islander (players) in the NRL today,” said Kidwell to Yahoo Sport.
The NRL will pay tribute to Filipana and fellow Rugby League great Johnny Raper, who also passed away this week, at the NRL All Stars game tonight ahead of kick-off.