The LA Giltinis are excited to give strongly-framed 255lb prop Sione Tuihalamaka the chance to make his mark on Major League Rugby in his home city of Los Angeles.
The 6’2” (1.88m) Tuihalamaka was born and still lives in Inglewood just 15 minutes drive from the new club’s headquarters at Venice Beach.
Three developmental seasons in the San Diego Legion program have advanced his skills after a career transition from playing defensive lineman in American football at the University of Arizona.
Tuihalamaka knows first hand how eager the LA rugby community is to support a professional team that can make an instant bang in MLR.
“Man, I’ve got 51 first cousins so I know where part of the crowd is coming from,” Tuihalamaka said with a smile.
“I’m super-excited for this chance in LA because as soon as I saw a MLR team was starting in my home town I knew I had to jump on.
“I’ve played with the rugby clubs of Belmont Shore, Los Angeles, Ventura County and San Fernando Valley so I know just how much talent and enthusiasm there is for the game in and around LA.
“To now know that talent is going to be exposed to high-calibre coaching in development programs is a big thing because it’s going to create futures in rugby.”
Tuihalamaka may be 29 but he’s young in rugby terms because he only dabbled with rugby after finishing his university football days with the Arizona Wildcats (2009-13).
The Pac-12 produced NFL regulars like Jared Goff, Nelson Agholor and Brandin Cooks in his final college year of 2013 yet very few are destined for that elite stage.
Tuihalamaka had brief time with the Portland Thunder and Los Angeles Kiss in the indoor Arena Football League in 2015 before rugby became his focus.
“For sure, my dad (Kisione) played rugby being born in Tonga and I grew up playing touch rugby through church,” Tuihalamaka said.
“Dad keeps asking when the rugby is starting back up…I keep saying March and it’s going to be good.
“It wasn’t until I was 22 that I correctly played rugby and I just enjoy the game, the brotherhood and camaraderie.
“Plus, you get to hit people and that’s kind of therapeutic. Going from being a defensive lineman to prop fits because it’s basically big man on big man at scrum-time.”
Tuihalamaka is entering only his fourth year as a loosehead prop so the tutelage of Giltinis scrum coach Alex Corbisiero, the former British and Irish Lions prop, will fast track his progress.
Precise technical knowledge is just what Tuihalamaka needs to turn his one-year deal into something more.
“Sione is an ex-football player so he tackles hard and he carries the ball strongly,” Giltinis skills coach Orene Ai’i said.
“He’s still a little raw after playing prop for just three or four years but his willingness to learn is strong and we know he’s a really good team man who will add his knowledge of the LA rugby scene.”
The Giltinis will kick off their MLR campaign on the weekend of March 20, 2021, with tickets being available by the end of this year.
For more info on the MLR season and how to support the LA Giltinis, head to www.giltinis.com