In May 2007 Jonathan Falefasa ‘Tana’ Umaga brought the curtain down on an illustrious Hurricanes career, spanning the entire Super rugby competition and 122 appearances.
Born in Lower Hutt to Samoan parents, Umaga originally played rugby league, making the Junior Kiwis in 1991-1992. In 1992 aged 18 he trialled with NRL side the Newcastle Knights but returned to New Zealand to pursue rugby.
He made the Wellington U21s in 1993 and then the New Zealand U21s in 1994. That same year he made his first class debut for Wellington. He went on to captain the Wellington Lions and in 2003 was named Wellington player of the past 25 years. He was also awarded the KR Tremain trophy for Player of the Year in New Zealand in first class rugby in 2000, the year Wellington won the NPC title.
He played in every match for the Hurricanes over the first three seasons, scoring 12 tries in 1997 and finishing with 47 tries overall. He was Hurricanes captain between 2003-2005 and became just the fourth player to bring up 100 Super rugby appearances in 2005.
In 1997 he made his All Blacks debut on the wing, was dropped in 1998 due to a logjam of world class outside backs, before coming back in 1999 and playing in the World Cup. In 2000 he made a successful switch from wing to centre, and was a first choice selection there and later second five-eighth until his international retirement at the end of 2005. At the 2003 World Cup he was injured in the opening match against Italy, ruling him out of the rest of the tournament. Coming back in 2004 he became
the 59th All Blacks captain and the first of Samoan heritage to captain the All Blacks, and in 2005 led the side to a 3-0 series win over the British and Irish Lions.
In the 2006 Queen's Birthday Honours Umaga was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of his dedicated service to rugby. In September 2006 he welcomed the arrival of his fourth child and then embarked on a short stint playing for Toulon until January 2007.
He played his 100th and final game for Wellington in August 2007, before heading back to Toulon as Coaching Director.
Umaga’s brother Mike played 64 games for Wellington and represented Samoa at the 1995 World Cup before switching to League for a time. The pair opposed each other in a Test match in 1999. Tana scored two tries that day.
smes for Toulon in 2009/10, he concentrated on his coaching duties but an injury crisis forced him to lace up his boots and play on the wing throughout much of the second half of the French Top 14 season.
Umaga left Toulon at the end of the 2009/10 season to return home to New Zealand and take up an assistant coach’s role and play in the midfield at Counties Manukau in the 2010 ITM Cup.
Umaga wound back the years during the 2010 ITM Cup for Counties and was an instrumental part of an exciting Steelers revival that saw them produce several upsets and play entertaining rugby.
Injury prevented him playing for Counties in the 2011 ITM Cup, but he remained there as the Pukekohe-based side's assistant coach. In December 2011 he was appointed Head Coach of the Steelers. In 2013 the Steelers made the ITM Cup semi-finals, missing out to Wellington. Umaga was then named the new NZ U20 coach for 2015.
In 2015, Umaga was named Head Coach of the Blues Super Rugby Franchise, taking over from Sir John Kirwan.