LA Giltinis Comments
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 an 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-caliber coaching in development programs is a big thing because it’s going to create futures in rugby.”
“For sure, my dad (Kisione) played rugby being born in Tonga and I grew up playing touch rugby through the 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.”