Then 38-year old Filogia Ian Tiatia was just one of two 1996 original Hurricanes (along with Tana Umaga) who was still playing professional rugby at the end of the 2010 Rebel Sport Super 14 season.
But 15 years after his professional career began, Tiatia played his last and 99th game for his adopted Welsh club the Ospreys in their 17-12 Magners League final win over Leinster at the end of May.
Tiatia was playing out his fourth season for the Ospreys, after originally signing at the start of the 2006/07 northern season for an initial two-year stint. For Tiatia it was the home stretch of a long and colourful rugby journey that also saw him spend a decade with the Vodafone Wellington Lions, the first five seasons with the Hurricanes, four seasons for Japanese club Toyota Verblitz and also play for the All Blacks in two Tests and one end of season European tour.
The hardman loose forward played 57 matches for the Hurricanes from the competition’s inception until his Super Rugby swansong at the end of the 2001 season when he moved overseas.
First stop was Japan, where he spent four seasons at Toyota Verblitz ahead of moving to the Ospreys. He quickly became an integral player in the ranks of the Neath and Swansea aligned club, helping them to a famous 24-16 win over the touring Australians in 2006 and a second Magners League title at the end of that same season. In September 2008 he ran out for his 50th Ospreys appearance in a Magners League derby match against rivals the Cardiff Blues.
Big and powerful and with unwavering commitment to any side he played for, Tiatia was in the frame for All Black selection for much of his New Zealand career before earning a call-up in 2000 against Tonga and scoring a try on debut. Later that year he was selected for the All Blacks for their tour of France and Italy, playing in the test against Italy in Genoa and again scoring a try. He had received his first All Black trial back in 1994.
With a strong Samoan family heritage, Tiatia could have played international rugby for Samoa earlier. His father was a keen sportsman and his mother’s brothers all played international rugby for Samoa. But he ruled himself out by playing for New Zealand A in 1998 and in 1999. His brother Ace, also a Hurricane and a Highlander, went on to play for Samoa after making the New Zealand Colts in 1994-95.
From there he went on to become the fourth Hurricanes player to reach 50 Super 12 matches in his final year in 2001. He debuted for the Wellington Lions in 1992 as a 21-year old and finished with 80 appearances from 1992-2001, and he was NPC First Division Player of the Year in 1999. His only low point was in 2000 when he missed being a part of the NPC winning team with a broken wrist.
After a stint as forwards coach at Toyota Verblitz in Japan, Tiatia was promoted to Head Coach for the 2012-13 season. In 2015 he was back in New Zealand as Director of Rugby at Scots College in Wellington and involved in coaching at a Wellington representative level.