PCC welcomes rugby sevens legend: It’s safe to say that people around Laie, Hawaii — home of the Polynesian Cultural Center — are football-crazy, what with the nearby Kahuku High School being a perennial powerhouse, having won numerous Oahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) and state football championships… 

…but for now-local Polynesians whose origins go back to Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand, rugby still reigns. So, it was with particular pleasure that the PCC recently hosted a former New Zealand All Black and worldwide Rugby Sevens legend.

On Friday, October 24, the Polynesian Cultural Center welcomed Eric James Rush in the Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand) Village, followed by a special-ticket “mix and mingle” dinner with the former Kiwi rugger.

Rush began his career as a flanker for Auckland in the 1980s, moved next to North Harbour where he predominantly played wing, then the Maori All Blacks from 1987–1998, and overlapping with the national All Blacks from 1992–1996. At the 1991 Hong Kong Sevens, he was voted Best and Fairest Player, and eventually earned nine caps for New Zealand.

After leading New Zealand to gold in the inaugural Sevens event in the 1998 Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, he also helped his team win gold the following year at Manchester, England. Rush switched full-time to Rugby Sevens in 1999 to compete in the newly formed IRB international Sevens circuit and helped New Zealand to win the first six versions of the World Sevens Series.

Rush played regularly for New Zealand, mostly as captain, until past his 39th birthday in 2004. During those years he saw action in more than 200 first-class matches — scoring a total of 108 tries.

Rush retired from playing in 2005. Along the way, he attained a Bachelor of Laws degree, was admitted to the bar as a barrister, and gained approximately a decade of legal experience, and owns a supermarket. He is also currently an assistant to New Zealand Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens — and is favored to succeed him when he retires. In addition, Rush is sought after as a humorous motivational speaker.

Following PCCs mix and mingle, the New Zealand consul in Honolulu invited PCC Aotearoa villagers to perform at a reception in his house for Rush and members of the All Blacks who were on their way to Soldier Field in Chicago for a sold-out test match against the Eagles, the U.S. men’s national rugby union team.

“I was so proud of the students as they performed in the presence of so very influential people from home and the state of Hawaii,” said Seamus Fitzgerald, PCC Cultural Islands Director and Aotearoa Village manager.

The Polynesian Cultural Center was also proud to welcome and count Eric Rush among its many VIP visitors.

Story by Mike Foley


Mike Foley, who has worked off-and-on

at the Polynesian Cultural Center since

1968,  has been a full-time freelance

writer and digital media specialist since

2002, and had a long career in marketing

communications and PR before that. He

learned to speak fluent Samoan as a

Mormon missionary before moving to Laie

in 1967 — still does, and he has traveled

extensively over the years throughout

Polynesia and other Pacific islands. Foley

is mostly retired now, but continues to

contribute to various PCC and other media.