At last night’s Blues Awards we bid farewell to the gentle giant with fast feet, a big heart, and an even bigger smile.
That’s right. After a remarkable nine Super Rugby seasons with us, Charlie Faumuina leaves the Blues as the sixth most-capped player in our history, and joins an esteemed group of legendary players comprising Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Ali Williams, John Afoa, and Jerome Kaino.
Blues player No 165 – or just ‘Chaz’ to his teammates – has played 99 times in a Blues jersey. That’s 98 in Super Rugby and one in that memorable win over the British & Irish Lions last month. But for a bout of Tonsillitis that ruled him out of the game against the Reds, then this year he would have become the sixth Blues centurion.
He made his debut way back in 2009, against the Sharks. And while he has always carried out his core duties as a front-rower well, Charlie quickly re-wrote the context around props with his deft footwork and outstanding ball-handling skills.
Indeed, Former coach Pat Lam once remarked that Charlie had the footwork of a ballerina, so we’re very fortunate that it was rugby, not dance, that won his favour. We’re positive he would have excelled at dance, or rugby league, which he played until late in his time at Papatoetoe High School.
As soon as he switched to rugby, though, he fast-tracked his way through the sport – from No 8 to the front row – and within two years he was in the New Zealand Colts team and playing for Auckland, for which he has earned 50 caps.
He’s always been among our most resilient players. Of those players with more than 50 caps for the club, Charlie has averaged 11 games in each of his nine seasons – the second highest.
His 50th match for us was against the Cheetahs in 2014, a year in which he was the only player to start in every single game.
Even this year, Charlie has been something of an automatic selection when fit, starting 12 times and averaging 50 minutes. In doing so, he’s recorded an average of six carries per game for an average of 10 metres per carry.
He has been an outstanding contributor to the All Blacks, too, earning his 50th cap recently against the British & Irish Lions. Of those matches, he was in the winning side in 46 of those games including the victory in the World Cup final in 2013.
While he is undoubtedly a hard man on the field, Charlie has been a big softy off it. We fondly remember when he shaved his head to raise more than $5000 for Child Cancer Foundation, and when we asked fans on social media this year to tell us about their favourite Blues players, Charlie was a name that came up again and again.
“An amazing great guy,” said one fan, “an all-round nice guy” said another. Our favourite comment, though: “Charlie has a smile for everyone, except maybe the man he is eyeing up to tackle.”
We wish Charlie all the best for their future. As they say in France: au revoir.
Photo by Photosport NZ