Women in League: Tilomai Fa’aso’o

Our next player interview in our Women in League series is with Tilomai Fa’aso’o who plays for the Mangere East Lady Hawks. Tilomai is fairly new to our game making it a goal of hers this year to play Rugby, she stumbled into Rugby League instead! She is a skilled hitter and has no fear when running it straight. She has awesome footwork and when she sees a hole she is goooooone! We hope you enjoy learning a bit more about this talented Samoan woman.

1.    Tell us a bit about yourself?

Well, my name is Tilomai Lashana Fa'aso'o. I'm a 25yr old Samoan woman, born and bred in South Auckland to Aiolupotea Fuata'i & Tupe. I come from a family of 8 - mum, dad, my 5 brothers and myselfour family home of 22yrs is in Papatoetoe and I'm still living there (and will be for a long time haha).


2.    Tell us about your culture/ethnicity and the things you love most about it?

I'm so so proud to be a Samoan and to have had the language and culture instilled in me from a young age by my parents, grandmothers and my old Tamā and Tinā faifeau - Tala & Sa'ilau Simanu. Faafetai, faafetai lava. I will be forever grateful to these people for teaching me to love different parts of my Samoan culture.

I love the language and being able to speak it fluently. It's allowed me to build some pretty special relationships with my elders. My own parents, my grandmothers, my church elders. I feel for my peers who may not have had the same opportunities to learn our mother tongue. That doesn't make you any less Samoan than the next Samoan - as long as you have the heart to appreciate it I think :) The Samoan language in itself is beautiful but very complex. I'm still learning more about it everyday and I will continue to as long as I'm able.

Another thing I love about being Samoan is traditional Siva Samoa. My first siva samoa was at my 5th birthday party. I'll always remember it with my very first yellow and brown puletasi lol it was cute. I love the way siva Samoa makes me feel. I'm always quite stressed and nervous before a taualuga (solo) performance but as soon as I start dancing it's honestly like I forget all about the eyes watching me and it feels like I'm my 5yo self practicing happily in the comfort of my living room (with my mother yelling at me to look at my hands, smile but not too much, make your body soft so your actions flow and have meaning not throwing them around just anywhere - smh lol). I love the old school traditional Samoan dancing - it brings so much joy to my heart. I don't really like the chicken dance I see happening in modern timeslol

There's a Samoan saying that I love that embodies the way I feel about being a Samoan: "A leai se gagana, ua leai se aganu'u. A leai se aganu'u ona pō lea o le nu'u - When you lose your language, you lose your culture. When there is no longer a living culture, darkness descends on the village".


3.    What is your favourite part about playing Rugby League?

At the start of the year I set a goal to play rugby. I'm rugby mad and love all things rugby! Anyone that knows me or that has seen a rugby game with me will know this LOL well I ended up playing rugby league instead and this in itself has been SUCH an awesome experience! Apart from learning that I'm actually able to run it straight and not knock myself out (lol) I have loved learning the game and learning it amongst my Mangere East Lady Hawks sisters :) my favourite part about playing though has to be the rush you feel after making a good run. At this stage of learning, if I make it 10m without being tackled I'm amazed lol


4.    Whats your favourite thing to do for recovery?

My favourite thing for recovery? I should say something like an ice bath or hot and colds or whatever proper athletes do but that obviously doesn't happen for me LOL after a game I'm always craving an ice cold coke and chicken nuggets or wicked wings and then a nice sleepI do really love pool recovery sessions too though lol


5.    Who in your family inspires you the most and why?

My parents are amazing amazing parents and I'm very lucky to have had them as parents. I'm gonna look like a lickarse but honestly my little (big) brother So'o is my biggest inspiration within my family. I do not know anyone who works as hard as he has to achieve everything he's achieved in his 22 years of life. He is a living example of "hardwork beats talent when talent fails to work hard" - this boy was not naturally talented lemme tell you that lol he was the most awkward, gumby and naughty child but I've seen him grow into an exemplary young man who is now residing half way around the world in Paris (ffs jealous) living his dreams as a professional rugby player. I've seen the journey he's had and the obstacles he's had to overcome and the many times he's been turned down and he's only come back bigger and better every time! If at first you don't succeed, try again and again and again and again lol much love to all my brothers though you guys are all equal to me lmao


6.    3 words your mates would use to describe you? …

If my friends had to describe me using 3 words? Reliable (AF haha), loyal and stubborn LOL


7.    How hard is it being a female in a male dominated sport?

I really didn't realise the gap that there was in terms of what is put in for men in league versus women in league. The resources for women in league are few and far in between with a lot of what I've seen being individual women's teams getting out there and getting things done for themselves. It would be nice to have a little more support for our awesome women in league. There is so much talent there! And this is only what I've seen over this season! It's tough trying to make your mark in such a male dominated sport. One thing I really hate hearing: "Oh that's pretty good for a girl's team" - compliment us on our own merits not what you think is a good effort for a women's team. I play alongside and up against mothers who have babies they're still breastfeeding, women holding down multiple jobs to provide for their families, community leaders etc etc. The amount of work that has to be done behind the scenes to even be available to play week in and week out is immense. So I applaud all the amazing women in league making shit happen for the love of the game 


8.    One thing you think would benefit the womens game in the future?

We have SO much young talent coming through to women's from our younger girls team. It would be amazing to have a development programme or an academy for our young girls transitioning into women's open teams. To brush up on skills but also to teach them about proper recovery, rehabilitation, nutrition, teaching them to play smarter instead of harder. This would be amazing.


9.    Favourite food?

My favourite food would have to be KFC wicked wings. I will never ever ever get sick of eating KFC wicked wings. This is probably why coach makes us do so much fitness


10. 3 things you would have to have on a Desert Island?

3 things I'd have to have on a desert island... an endless supply of KFC wicked wings of course. My Harry Potter books and water duh lol