A Pasifika rugby league pioneer in Australia, Amenatave Gutugutuwai has died at 76 of prostrate cancer.
There were times when Gutugutuwai slept in the dirt and caught birds and bats for sustenance, but he rose to become one of Queensland’s great multicultural pioneers.
Born Ratu Amenatave Gutugutuwai in Nakasaleka, Fiji in 1947, the six-time Fiji rugby union representative was recruited to Australia in 1969 to play rugby league for Brisbane’s Southern Suburbs Magpies.
Gutugutuwai was among the first South Pacific Islanders to play the sport in Australia, but he also helped to pave the way for migrants of various backgrounds.
Last year the National Rugby League (NRL) reported 45 per cent of its players were of Pacific Island descent.
Former International Rugby League and Australian Rugby League Chairman, John GrantGrant said the decision of Brisbane Souths to recruit Gutugutuwai and his compatriots was one of the turning points in Australian sports history.
“It was hugely significant and now rugby league attracts the stars from the Pacific and has become much better for it,” Grant said.
“It was breakthrough stuff, something that had not even been considered before and crowds that year were phenomenal,” he added.
The long-time Logan resident passed away on 03 January.
Gutugutuwai was a father of six and had five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.