The St George Illawarra Dragons proudly honour the late Apisai Toga whose legacy was celebrated during the Petero Civoniceva Medal ceremony held by the Australian Fijian Rugby League recently.
Toga played 65 first-grade games and scored nine tries during his five seasons with for the St George Dragons between 1968-1972.
Affectionately known as ‘Harpie’, he was amongst the first Fijian players to compete in the NSWRL competition having joined the Club under Head Coach Alan Gibson reign prior to the commencement of the 1968 campaign.
The towering second-rower, who could also play in the forwards, had previously competed for two seasons with the Rochdale Hornets in the United Kingdom prior to arriving in Kogarah.
Toga was joined at the Dragons by his brother Inisai during his second season and the pair soon gained cult-like status amongst the red-and-white faithful.
"I worked for many years just across from Jubilee Oval, and after work we often had cooling ale at the Royal Hotel in Carlton,” reflected Roy Horrigan.
“Many of the Saints players after training used to come in.
“Apisai and his brother Inisai used to play the guitar and sing songs, wonderful, friendly guys, great players, and great memories.
“When they shook your hands you stayed shook."
The Nadi-born player, known for running wide of the ruck and oftentimes out-pacing his marker, wore the famous Red V livery on 103 occasions in total across the Club’s various grade level.
Unfortunately, Toga passed suddenly prior to the start of the 1973 season with his untimely death reverberating throughout rugby league circles.
Toga had returned to his homeland during the off-season where he cut his foot on a combination of coral and barbed wire whilst diving in the sea.
The player returned to the Dragons to commence his pre-season training shortly thereafter but unbeknownst to him, he had contracted Tetanus poisoning.
Sadly, Toga passed away having collapsed during a pre-season training run at Carrs Park on January 27, 1973.
Dragons captain Graeme Langlands accompanied his teammate’s body back to Fiji for burial the following week.
Toga’s legacy however lives on today, not only by his recent remembrance at the Petero Civoniceva Medal ceremony, but within the village of Saunaka, Fiji where the aptly named ‘Apisai Toga Oval’ is located.
The stadium itself was constructed by money collected by the village’s locals who respectfully named it after the player upon completion in 2013.