May 19, 2022

Anniversary of Sonny Fai’s death makes idiots of Telegraph’s ‘NRL scandal counter’

3 min read


He had all the talent in the world, a million dollar smile and the x-factor to be the next big thing in Kiwi rugby league. Sonny Fai had the world at his feet.

Such was his potential that after just 15 NRL games in 2008, both New Zealand and Samoa penciled him into their World Cup train-on squads. He was a star on the cusp of greatness. A Junior Kiwi longer than most could remember and the Warriors Under 20’s Player of the Year in 2007.

But on the 4th of January, 2009, tragedy struck.

While swimming with family at Bethells Beach, west of Auckland, Fai’s brother found himself caught in a rip. The Warriors prodigy died trying to save him. His body was never found. He was only 20.

This week marks eight years since Sonny Fai’s death.

Sometimes the Warriors get forgotten in the media cycle but this anniversary deserves all of our attention.



Almost 1000 people attended Fai’s memorial service in Auckland back in 2009. Some of the game’s toughest men were nothing more than broken shells, unashamedly weeping. Hundreds of people spilt out of the packed cathedral and onto the street, Steve Price broke down, so too did fellow legend Ruben Wiki who asked the masses to “stay strong”.

The club’s entire 2009 campaign was dedicated to Fai’s memory with his name emblazed above the Warriors logo. Before their round five match against South Sydney, a minute’s silence was replaced by a minute of applause. It seemed more appropriate – it was.

“He deserves it,” Wiki said prior to the game at Mount Smart Stadium.

“He deserves everything he gets today.

“I had a lot to do with Sonny and he was a great kid. He was like a little brother to me, so he’ll be watching today Mt Smart, so he’ll be enjoying the event today.”

“We are not giving up,” Price said of the search in 2009 which included dozens of players, family and Warriors staff.

“To us, it isn’t a tragedy because we are still hopeful he is going to come [back].

“We are very hopeful he will come back, as are his family.”

Then-coach Ivan Cleary said Fai had had a huge pre-season and was primed for a monster 2009 campaign.

“We’re just trying to do everything we can, but remaining sensitive to what they’re going through, which is really hard to understand and get a hold of,” he said.

“It’s just really sad. Sonny was a really popular part of our club and such an effervescent personality and always fun to be around. My heart goes out to his family. It’s a great loss.”

Sonny Fai could have been anything today. The fact is he never got the chance.

While hundreds of players go through their pre-season slog this week, battering their bodies, pushing the limits, all for the glory ahead, Sonny Fai’s family sit through another anniversary without him.

In March, Fai would have been 28-years-old.

It puts it all perspective doesn’t it?

And it sure as hell makes stuff like a newspaper’s ‘NRL scandal counter’ and the people behind it look ridiculous.

Sonny Fai’s memory deserves our entire, undivided attention.

Not because it’s the right thing to do but because we’re all part of the rugby league community and he was one of us.


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1 thought on “Anniversary of Sonny Fai’s death makes idiots of Telegraph’s ‘NRL scandal counter’

  1. Well done…..Nice to see a journalist with factual, incisive and emotional traits instead of the crap being served up in a race to the bottom by scandalizing NRL players, family and clubs.

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