Made a difference… Jack Breen
Jack Breen is the unofficial founding father of the Maui Rugby Union.
A conversation in 2006 with former Maui resident Hilmy Dole, a friend of Breen’s, led to the start of the league that has sent 14 Valley Isle youths to U.S. national teams since 2009.
“I was, like, ‘I want to start rugby up,’ and (Dole) said, ‘Oh, I played fly half in Sri Lanka,’ ” Breen said. “I said, ‘Oh, I was a forward, we’d be perfect together.’ ”
A few years ago, Breen, 58, presented the sport at a Maui Interscholastic League athletic directors meeting, but the required three teams to form a high school league have not emerged as yet.
Former Maui High standout running back Andrew Malafu reached the U.S. national team and was later offered a professional contract by the London Scottish. Pila Taufa, a former Lahainaluna football standout, and Malafu spent a year in England playing the sport on a developmental level.
Taufa is a current standout in the national program.
“Pila is one of the most decorated players in the history of the U.S.,” Breen said. “He has played on three different national teams.”
Breen said that Taufa and Vili Tolutau of Kahului are candidates to be on the first U.S. Olympic team for the sport when it debuts in 2016. Tolutau is currently playing at Central Washington University.
“Vili will end up being the most decorated rugby player ever from Maui,” Breen said.
Other notable players in the program include John Lotulelei, a former Baldwin standout football player who is currently a linebacker with the Carolina Panthers, and Simione Vehikite, a former Luna who played football at the University of Southern California and was a national rugby team member.
The sport led to a college education for Josh Aquinde, a former three-sport athlete at Kamehameha Schools Maui, who played rugby at California Lutheran University and later in New Zealand and Australia.
“I was talking with my trainer one day, she referred me to coach Jack, and I went out to practice one day and the rest is history,” Aquinde said. “I just fell in love with it.”
Breen said, “Josh Aquinde is the future, he’s the story. He’s got everything to be the first professional rugby administrator (for Maui).”
“Coach Jack is kind of like our bonding, our glue,” Aquinde said. “We were really separated for a while there, and he brought together all the talent.
“Without him, Maui rugby wouldn’t be what it is today.”
* Robert Collias can be reached at email@example.com.