Rugby for all: Federal Way Warriors Athletics host free rugby touch

The rugby team meets twice a week at Saghalie Park to promote fitness and erase cultural stereotypes.

Because of a cultural disconnect, the Pacific Islander community can sometimes be misunderstood, especially during team sports.

To combat this disconnect between Pacific Islanders and the community, the founder of Federal Way Warriors Athletics, Sania Leuelu, hosts a twice-weekly free rugby touch at Saghalie Park.

From 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Leuelu invites the community to learn how to play rugby completely free of charge. Youth through adults are all invited to participate.

“We’re doing the free rugby fitness events for the community, just for people to come out to stay healthy and learn how to play rugby,” Leuelu said. “There are a lot of obese people who need a reason to be outside and get some fresh air, and the only way we know how to do it is to play rugby.”

Leuelu said the reason this all started is based on stereotypical comments people make about Pacific Islanders, and he wants to bring the whole community together to help get rid of those stereotypes.

“It’s pretty normal that Pacific Islanders, in general, are naturally strong, so it seems as if they play more aggressively just because of their size and strength,” Leuelu said. “So, I heard a lot of stereotypical comments made last year towards Pacific Islander high school kids, and I just wanted to kill that.”

For eight years, Leuelu served in the military, so he said creating a rugby team is how he wanted to continue serving, hoping to bring together the community. But Leuelu said he also wanted to be there for the youth who might be troubled as he was growing up, so through rugby, he hopes to build those relationships.

“The reason why I went with Rugby is because I enjoy rugby so much. It doesn’t really limit your opportunities like football and basketball,” Leuelu said. “It’s for boys and girls, all different sizes, anybody could play, and with sports, it’s easier for me to talk to the youth about life skills.”

Leuelu said he was a troubled kid, but rugby changed things for him. Rugby brought new friendships and allowed him to stay active. Some kids might feel like they don’t fit in, so Leuelu said he shares his own similar personal experience with the kids.

Since the Federal Way Warriors were first created, the players have been mainly Pacific Islanders. Leuelu attributes this to parents wanting their kids to play with people who look like them, but he said he wants to expand the diversity of his players. Through the twice-weekly community fitness events, Leuelu said he wants to see Black, Mexican, white, Pacific Islanders and kids of all ethnicities all playing rugby together and sharing their cultures.

Aifili Tuitau is Samoan and Tokelauan from Federal Way, and she plays rugby at Lindenwood University in Missouri, a division one NCAA school. She started playing rugby for a Kentwood High School rugby club when she was in high school.

She said she would’ve played rugby in Federal Way, but no team existed. So, Tuitau said when she saw a rugby team in Federal Way, she decided to join this summer.

Tuitau said throughout her whole life playing various sports, she always had comments thrown at her about her being rough, but Tuitau said that was not the case. Instead, she said Polynesians are committed to the sports they play and work hard in everything they do.

“I would say we’re committed because of our families. In Poly families, we learn to be committed within our families, making sure they’re always supported. We learn to represent our culture,” Tuitau said. She said Polynesians are often the opposite of rough and really have soft spots of the heart.

She said the team wants to bring together different cultures who, despite having different backgrounds, can bond and build up the team.