Memorial service for trailblazing Balmain Tigers player, Olsen Filipaina

Friday 18 February 2022

Council’s Leichhardt Oval will host a memorial service for trailblazing Balmain Tigers player and New Zealand international Olsen Filipaina.

The service will be held in the grandstand on Monday 21 February, 11am. Everyone welcome.

“Before there was Benji Marshall there was ‘the Big O’,” said Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne.

“In five seasons playing for the Balmain Tigers he blazed a trail for Māori and Pacifika players in rugby league that many hundreds of NRL players have now followed.

“Playing 28 tests for New Zealand, he was famous for regularly getting over the top of the great Wally Lewis - in his prime.

“Olsen worked on the garbage trucks throughout his playing career and is spoken of by all his peers and teammates as a very kind and humble man.

“He was gone far too soon at 64.

“We are honoured that his family have asked us to help host his memorial service at Leichhardt Oval,” Mayor Byrne said.

His children said, "Our father was one of the first Polynesians to play first grade NRL and help paved the way for many other players to follow in his footsteps.

“For our family, Leichhardt Oval is ‘home’. This is where he made his debut, so to us – his siblings, children and grandchildren – Leichhardt Oval is where my dad’s legacy lives.”

The traditional Polynesian service will commence with a Welcome to Country before Olsen is placed in a canoe. Samoan hymns will be performed by family members and the Te Aranganui community organisation. A Maori Karakia prayer will be led by Archdeacon Kaio Malcolm Karipa.

The service will conclude with a First Nations Farewell Ceremony.

For media enquiries, contact Elizabeth Heath, Media and Communications Coordinator, 9392 5334 or

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Page last updated: 18 Feb 2022