Glendale Raptors & Ata Malifa
The Glendale Raptors have signed Ata Malifa for a second Major League Rugby season. The 33-year-old center is 5’11, and 205 pounds.
Malifa was born in American Samoa but moved soon after to New Zealand. His family moved from New Zealand to Samoa at age 5 to care for his grandparents spending most of his early youth there. His family then went back to New Zealand where he resumed his education. Ata is one of five children, which includes four boys and a girl. This includes his twin brother Nese, who is a coach with Tiger Rugby.
Malifa attended Mount Albert Grammar School, Samoa College and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Athletic Development from Unitec.
At played cricket, tennis, soccer, and rugby. At age 15 he played in New Zealand with Eden Rugby Club and then with Ponsonby Rugby Club. Then he went to the Auckland Rugby Academy and represented Auckland Rugby for the Under-19s and the Under-21s in 2003-2004. He played for the Bay of Plenty Under-23s in 2005-2006 and the ITM development team in 2007.
In 2009 he joined Nese in California and played with Belmont Shore RFC.
He played for the Eagles XVs team, debuting against Ireland in Santa Clara on May 31, 2009. All five of his points for the Eagles were in that match from a drop goal and a conversion. He subsequently played against Wales, Georgia and against Canada that same year. Malifa also played for the Eagles Sevens team for the 2009-2010 season.
Malifa also played club rugby for the Glendale Raptors from 2010-2014 and helped the Raptors to win the USA Rugby Club Division 1 National Championship. In 2015 Ata played with the Denver Barbarians before signing a professional contract with the Denver Stampede and helped led them to the Championship. Malifa returned to the Glendale Raptors again in 2016 and has been with the team ever since then.
During the last three years, Ata has played in the World Rugby Classic in Bermuda with the Classic Eagles.
Ata has had a rich rugby sevens history. He played with the Atlantis Rugby Sevens team (No. 834) at the 2009 Tahiti Sevens. In 2014 he played with Tiger Rugby at the Melrose Sevens.
The Glendale Raptors have a team of veteran players like Malifa that provide leadership for the talented young players that have been infused on the squad. That has helped the team be among the top professional teams in Major league Rugby. The team has a stream of talented club players from the Glendale Merlins and has the only rugby only facility in the U.S. in Infinity Park at Glendale.