Bosses at the region have paid tribute to Filo Tiatia as he prepares for what may be his final ever appearance at the Liberty Stadium on Friday evening.
Former All-Black Tiatia is to retire from playing at the end of the current campaign to concentrate on his coaching role with the region, and with the final game of the regular season coming up against the Dragons, he is getting to ready to say his farewells to the Ospreys supporters.
A win against the Dragons should cement a home semi-final the following weekend, with a potential final at the Liberty Stadium to follow two weeks later, but Tiatia has already indicated that he is ready to say goodbye to the fans this Friday, should it prove to be his final run-out at the home of the Ospreys.
First arriving at the region in the summer of 2006 from Toyota Verblitz of Japan, former Hurricanes back-rower Tiatia has established himself as a true Ospreys legend, racking up 96 appearances for the region in just four years. The 38-year old has scored 10 tries in that time, the last of which against Viadana in December saw him set a new Heineken Cup record as the oldest try scorer in the competition’s history! An integral part of the Ospreys environment during this time, he has helped the region to the 2007 Magners League title, and to two EDF Energy Cup final’s against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham, winning the second of those in 2008. He also featured in the historic win over Australia at the Liberty Stadium in 2006.
Ospreys Managing Director, Mike Cuddy, led the tributes to Filo, saying:
"He has been a tremendous servant to the Ospreys as a player and will, I’m sure, continue to provide outstanding service as a coach over the coming seasons.
"I think it’s fair to say that he is an inspirational character, who has been welcomed to the region by his colleagues and the supporters alike, and as such, he feels at home in Ospreylia which is part of the reason his time here has been such a success. His effort, commitment and dedication always shines through, and to see him continue to put in the kind of performances he has been this season has been little short of incredible.
"When we look back on Filo’s time in an Ospreys shirt, I’ve no doubt that he will be regarded as one of the best overseas signing that regional rugby has seen. His impact off the pitch has been as big as it has on it, thanks to the work that he does to help develop the next generation of Ospreys, something which I think will become more apparent as he steps up his work as a coach."
Head Coach Sean Holley added:
"It’s easy for me to comment on Filo as we’ve become great friends while he has been an Osprey. I’ve got a lot of respect for him, he has been a player that has always had a positive influence around our environment, on and off the pitch.
"His attitude has galvanised many Ospreys performances and he has brought the group together in many ways. His professionalism, outlook and attitude has transcended overseas players, young and old players, internationals and domestic players alike, they have all bought into his way of thinking. The condition he has kept himself in, and to be doing what he is still doing despite his age is incredible. It has been a real credit to him, and I have absolutely no doubt that he has established himself as an Ospreys legend.
"He’s a fan’s favourite and rightly so because every time he plays you know that you will get; The commitment and drive that they love to see, combined with an outstanding technical ability. While sad to be losing Filo the player, we are delighted that he is now going to be transferring those attributes to the coaching environment where he can continue to have a positive impact on the environment. We’ve allowed him to develop as a coach over the last two seasons and he is showing excellent signs of being a top quality coach, just as he has been a top quality player and continues to be a real top quality person."
Finally, Elite Performance Director Andrew Hore commented:
"The impact he has made in an Ospreys shirt has been well documented. When we talk at the Ospreys about supplementing our home grown talent with a select group of quality non-Welsh players, Filo is exactly the sort of player we are talking about. He is a positive influence around the environment in everything he does, and is a fantastic role model for his team-mates, young and old alike, who personifies everything that we aspire for the Ospreys to be.
"Thankfully, we aren’t saying farewell to Filo, as although he is hanging up his playing boots after the final game of the season, he will remain an Osprey as he looks to step up his coaching career. We identified Filo as having the right characteristics for a future in coaching and gave him the opportunity. It’s been great to see him develop this year and we look forward to seeing that progress continue now that he can commit full-time to the role.
"Filo has been a tremendous servant to the region as a player over the last four years, and as a real Ospreys legend, I hope that he can get the send off he deserves over the coming weeks."