ZB

Kiwi league great fighting for his life in NSW hospital

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 28 Jan 2022, 9:57am
Olsen Filipaina poses for a promotional photoshoot for his biography 'The Big O' in 2020. (Photo / Getty)
Olsen Filipaina poses for a promotional photoshoot for his biography 'The Big O' in 2020. (Photo / Getty)

Kiwi league great fighting for his life in NSW hospital

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 28 Jan 2022, 9:57am

New Zealand rugby league great Olsen Filipaina is in an intensive care unit in Australia battling a severe bout of kidney failure. 

Filipaina, one of the NRL's top performers in the 1980s and regarded as one of the greatest Kiwis players of all time, was admitted to Westmead Hospital in New South Wales on January 13 for a stomach infection, according to his brother and Auckland councillor Alf Filipaina. 

However, once treatment began, his kidneys began to fail, worsening an already fragile situation. 

"On the 13th of January, 2022 Olsen was taken to hospital with a stomach infection and on arrival went into ICU," Alf Filipaina wrote in Facebook post on Thursday night. 

"His condition improved over a few days regarding the infection, but his kidney problem that he has had for many years worsened, to the extent that he had to be transported to Westmead Hospital, where he was to be seen by the kidney specialists. 

"Over the past few days he's been up and down and as a result is now in ICU. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and the whanau as I know yours will be too." 

Filipaina played seven seasons of NRL between 1980 and 1987 for the Blamain Tigers, Easter Suburbs Roosters and North Sydney Bears while also representing New Zealand and Western Samoa. 

In 1985, Filipaina was the dominant figure in one of the most memorable trans-Tasman series of all time in which he was handed the unenviable task of marking Kangaroos great Wally Lewis. 

He scored a try, set up another with a bomb to Hugh McGahan and kicked four goals in a 20-26 loss in the first test at Brisbane, and again dominated Lewis in the second test in which the Kiwis were again denied by a late John Ribot try, losing 10-6. 

In the third test at Carlaw Park the Kiwis finally had their revenge with an 18-0 victory. A reluctant goal-kicker, Filipaina didn't miss a kick in the series until late in the third test. 

"Perhaps the greatest compliment paid to Filipaina was to be that he was completely ignored by Lewis in two biographies written about his career," wrote league historian John Coffey. 

"Clearly Lewis did not want to be reminded of how he fared against a player who that season spent much of his time in the Eastern Suburbs reserve grade." 

Filipaina scored 108 points from six tries and 44 goals in 26 tests for the Kiwis, playing 50 games in all. 

He was also name-checked by David Tua on Wheel of Fortune, with Tua asking for an "O for Olsen" - a line most Kiwis heard as "O for awesome".