As he prepares to hang up his playing boots at the end of the season, Filo Tiatia has vowed to go out with a bang and help the Ospreys towards a potential Magners League play-off final.
The durable former All-Black will call time on his lengthy playing career this month just days before his 39th birthday at the start of June to take up a full-time role on the coaching staff after combining playing and coaching this season.
Having clocked up 96 appearances for the Ospreys in just four years since arriving in the region following a similar spell in Japan with Toyota Verblitz, Tiatia goes into Friday’s game against Newport Gwent Dragons knowing that it may be his final appearance at the Liberty Stadium, with a potential two play-off matches to follow at, as yet, unknown venues.
"It will be good to end with a bit of success, with some silverware. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been part of a team that has enjoyed league and cup success since I joined the Ospreys, and I want to go out on a high. We’ve got the Dragons at home on Friday night, and beyond that, we’ve got a potential two more games to decide the fate of the league title, and I want to be a part of that before I finally finish playing.
"Like I said at the start of the season, I knew that it would be my last year and I want to try and enjoy every day and to continue experiencing new things as a player. I’m making sure of that, I enjoyed training today and I want to just make the memories last forever."
Whilst the next few weeks will provide a final opportunity for Ospreys fans to see the Wellington born former Hurricanes back-rower in typical bone-rattling action, he is quick to point out that he will still be heavily involved at the region and intends to continue providing a positive influence:
"I’m not saying goodbye, I’ll be stepping up the coaching role that I started last year and taking that to another level. This role that I’ve been doing as a player-coach will now become a full-time coaching role so hopefully I can continue to make a positive contribution to the Ospreys.
"Retiring is a word that players don’t like, you never get accustomed to saying it, but for me it’s the right time I think. I’ve enjoyed my time as a player, but now it’s about the different challenges of coaching moving forward. It will be emotiona playing my final gamel. I’m not too sure whether it’s going to be this weekend, the semi-final if I’m involved, or the final for that matter, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m apprehensive at the same time, I’ve had such a long career since my first first-class game back in ’92 and there’s been a lot packed in between then and now, but yeah, I am looking forward to the next stage of my career and the next challenge – I think!"
In his four years as an Osprey, Tiatia has developed a strong bond with the fans who have taken him to their heart. He says that the feeling is mutual and he is looking forward to being able to say farewell to them at the Liberty Stadium:
"I hold a special place for the Liberty Stadium, and especially for the fans over in the East Stand. They’re a passionate bunch, they are my kind of people there. The fans in general at the Ospreys have really made me welcome here and for that I’m grateful, they’ve accepted me as part of the family. When you hear your name being sung, it’s something special, a privilege really. For any player, at any stadium and with any club, that will always be special, and I’m just glad that I’ve been able to enjoy their support over the last four years, that they have taken to me like that.
"I just want to say thanks to the fans for being what they are, they’ve had a big part in what I do on the pitch and I hope they’ve enjoyed it anywhere near as much as I have. It’s been an honour representing them. I’m looking forward to being able to thank them on the pitch, be it Friday night, or one of the play-offs games after that, whatever turns out to be my final game."
So, having claimed a Magners League title in his first year at the region, been part of the team that defeated Australia, and enjoyed two days out at Twickenham in the EDF Energy Cup, what stands out as his favourite Ospreys moment?
"There are so many memories with the Ospreys" said Tiatia.
"But if I was pushed, I’d say it was the second EDF final at Twickenham against Leicester. They both stand out, but the second one was the most memorable. My wife Sally gave birth to twins in Swansea the night before the game and I travelled up to London on the morning of the match, with not much sleep. The performance of the team that day was outstanding and to win rounded off a memorable weekend, it was great to be a part of that."