The LA Giltinis signed Ma’ake Muti for the remainder of the 2021 Major League Rugby season, as injuries have mounted for their props. The 23-year-old is 6’1″ and 265 lbs.
Ma’ake impressed coaches at a recent try-out and the physical, strong-running forward was added to the roster afterward.
Ma’ake was signed to the Dallas Jackals development side, and then played with the Rugbytown Crossover Academy team, Colorado XO after the Jackals postponed the team’s entry into MLR until 2022.
Ma’ake is from Niutoua, Tongatapu, Tonga, and moved with his family to Hawaii in 2008. He attended Leilehua High School and was a multisport athlete. He wrested for a year, coming in third in the OIA and second in the State High School Championship in the 285 lb weight class. He was on the track and field team, was the team captain for one year, and won the OIA Western Championship in the shot put. He also played football as was an All-State Honorable Mention as a nose guard. He played for the Kalihi Raiders in rugby and played in the 2014 Lava Lava Festival.
He is one of four children with brothers Netane, who plays as a guard for the Denver Broncos in the NFL, Manamouri, and his sister Ana. In 2014, he and his family became U.S. citizens December 2014.
Following his graduation from high school in 2014, he attended Azusa Pacific University from 2014-2019, majoring in Business Management. He played football for four years, and his senior year in 2018, was GNAC Defensive Lineman of the Year. He then returned to play rugby in 2019 and helped the team win the NSCRo Challenge Cup in New York, and was named the Impact Player. He also was on the Pacific Coast Grizzlies All-Star Team which won a championship in Houston, Texas.
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“I’m super excited. I get to work with (scrum coach) Alex Corbisiero, who was an absolute beast at scrum-time for England, and soak up everything I can training with some legends of the game,” Muti said.
“I watched Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper playing for the Wallabies on TV when I was growing up in Tonga.
“I went into football and explored that side at university in California but I’ve had rugby in my blood since I was a little kid. I’ve enjoyed being back into it for a few seasons now.”
His signing is a major acknowledgment of Muti’s hunger to learn and improve after playing in Glendale this year with the Colorado XOs, a team formed through the progressive RugbyTown Crossover Academy.
Colorado XO Manager Peter Pasque said he was delighted with Muti securing a contract and the example he could be for other crossover athletes.
“He was a great leader and teacher for the other truly new players to the game with the XOs. We offered up Ma’ake to try out for the Giltinis and now he gets to make his dream come true of playing in MLR,” Pasque said.
The Giltinis need some extra prop back-up with JP Smith (knee), Marco Fepulea’i (knee-ankle), Luke White (hamstring), and Sione Tuihalamaka (tricep) all nursing injuries.
“Ma’ake caught our eye as a full-on athlete. He gets his chance now after being unlucky to miss out with Dallas,” Giltinis head coach Darren Coleman said.