Well-travelled forward Esene Faimalo represented New Zealand from Sydenham, Balmain and Widnes.
A Junior Kiwi while playing for Linwood in 1985, the highly-rated amateur heavyweight boxer joined Addington the following season and made a tryscoring, man-of-the-match debut for Canterbury against Waikato at just 19 years of age.
The robust second-rower played all eight games for Canterbury in 1986, as well as representing South Island and Western Samoa.
Faimalo linked with Sydenham in 1988 and earned a Kiwis call-up, coming off the bench in 66-14 thrashing of Papua New Guinea at Carlaw. He collected the D.V. Syme Rosebowl as CRL Sportsman of the Year in 1988 and extended his tally of appearances for Canterbury to 20.
Snapped up by Balmain under the NZRL’s rookie scheme in 1989, Faimalo did not break into the Tigers’ star-studded first-grade pack but he won a spot in the Kiwis’ squad for the end-of-season tour of Britain and France.
Faimalo was a replacement in the second Test against Great Britain and was promoted to starting prop for the third-Test decider at Wigan – a 10-6 loss for New Zealand – for fellow Cantabrian Adrian Shelford after a powerhouse display against English club champions Widnes. He was also in the front-row for the series-opener against France in Carcassonne.
Upon his return Faimalo shifted to Wellington and enjoyed a brilliant season, despite being overlooked by the Kiwi selectors. The aggressive forward finished second in the Colin O’Neill Best and Fairest count, helped Upper Hutt to the title (leaving his hospital bed to inspire the Tigers to a 23-12 Grand Final victory over Wainuiomata) and played eight matches for his new province, including a 30-22 upset of Great Britain.
Faimalo’s tour match display at Naughton Park a year earlier stuck in Widnes officials’ minds and he joined the club for the 1990-91 English winter. He went on to play over 100 games for Widnes, while his final appearance for the Kiwis came as an interchange in the 1991 third-Test decider loss to Australia at Lang Park.
Faimalo ultimately played 11 seasons in the Old Dart with Widnes, Leeds and Salford, hanging up the boots following a short stint back at the Vikings and representing USA in the Emerging Nations World Cup in 2000.
NEW ZELAAND (1988-89, 1991)
5 Tests – 0 points
6 tour matches – 1 try (4 points)
-1989 Kiwis tour of Britain and France