Masi Sala: A Rugby Warrior

Las Vegas Silverbacks Player Masi Sala Critically Injured in Rugby Match: Read Masi’s Story »

They say rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen. We joke ‘give blood, play rugby.’ To the casual observer, this game is chaotic at best; dangerous and brutal at its worst. Saturday, March 28th was proof of that. The San Diego Armada and Las Vegas Silverbacks faced off on the pitch for the picture-4second time for what was going to be a great battle between two teams with plenty of heart and spirit. Shortly into that game, something that sticks in the back of every rugby player’s mind occurred. A tackle happened. Players rolled away and got up…except for one.

Nervously, fans watched the play continue for a short while expecting the usual to happen. He’ll catch his breath, roll over, hop up, and run down the pitch to rejoin the brutal action. But he didn’t move. He couldn’t move. The Silverback’s assistant coach and fellow rugby player Masi Sala was in trouble. The referee stopped play. Armada’s team doctor ran to his side and began administering a brief exam no rugby player wants to experience. Was he breathing? Could he wiggle a finger? Could he feel his legs? Nothing looked good. Tension mounted on both sides of the pitch. Two teams who were just locked in battle were now joining together, fearful of the diagnosis and praying that this fallen player would rise.

It became evident he wasn’t going to rise. An ambulance was called and Masi was taken to the hospital. It was determined that he had broken his neck and may never regain the use of his arms and legs. As time passed, realization sank in, quicker for some than others, that this could’ve been any of us. It could’ve been you at the last match. It might be me in the next one. You should ask yourself, ‘why do I play this game?’ Why I do I subject my body, my loved ones, my friends to this brutality?

Because of the warrior spirit in you…

We are rugby warriors. Masi not only was a coach and player of this game, but also a supporter of a team pledged to continue this warrior tradition of 30 men chasing an oval ball down a pitch while ramming into each other at top speed. Sometimes, some warriors don’t come back. Some move on to train other warriors. Some become legends; a story to tell when trying to impart how risky this tradition is. There’s not an Armada or Silverback warrior who doesn’t know the name Masi Sala; who didn’t go to bed last night thinking of our injured brother and his wife Epi. Masi’s dedication to rugby and the struggle he’ll have to face will inspire us all for years to come. “Remember that day when warrior Masi went down”, you’ll say.

At the end of a match, be mindful that you can walk away from the pitch and join the other team in a beer. We compare injuries. We show each other the bruised parts of our body. And there are injuries and potential injuries we don’t discuss. Speak not the demon’s name lest you invoke him. Today, we don’t think of the injury. We think of the man, the warrior, the husband, the friend, the coach. We think of Masi, our rugby brother. We think of his wife Epi and their family. We think of all of those rugby warriors out there and hope and pray that they all stay safe and continue to prosper in every way. Masi Sala, a rugby player, is teaching us even now from the hospital. Redouble your efforts to ensure that everyone on the pitch remains safe. Redouble your efforts to make sure that you respect this powerful tradition of rugby that boils in your blood. Redouble your efforts to respect each and every player who steps onto the pitch with you. We’re all connected by this thing called rugby. Masi is each one of us. Endeavor to play rugby with Masi’s name in your heart and spirit.

We wish Masi and Epi nothing but the best in the future. He is currently at UCSD Hillcrest hospital. If you would like to make a donation to the Salas family, Armada’s website is now available to accept them via credit/debit card. We will deliver the funds promptly to Epi to make her stay so far from home as comfortable as possible. Any amount helps and will be greatly appreciated. Rugby brother Joe and Dr Jay will act as a liaison between us and the Salas’. Any requests for information can be sent to them at






40 Responses to “Masi Sala: A Rugby Warrior”

  1. Our thoughts and prayers are with Masi and Epi. Have the same courage and faith in recovery that you held as a player and coach.

  2. Aloha All,

    My name is Angie and I am Epi’s sister. I have know and loved Masiano Sala for over 30 years. He is not only my brother-in-law and the rugged rugby player you all know, he is to me one of the kindest, most generous man I have ever known. I lost my son to cancer about 2 years ago. Masi and Epi flew to South Lake Tahoe where my son was and Masi spent days and nights lovingly caring for my son just so I could get a little rest. Now he needs us all as does Epi and their son Nate. Currently, Masi has pneumonia and is back on the ventilator. Our family needs your prayers. We are flying from Hawaii to San Diego as soon as we can make arrangements. I want to personally thank you for this website and for any help you can offer to my little sister, Masi and Nate. God bless you all. Angie

  3. To all,

    I have played with Masi and become with his wife and son over the past 20 years. I cheerish the man as a player, friend, father and loving husband. Masi’s personality and heart are one of a kind. The Las Vegas Blackjacks and all of our old boys that played with Masi for years are here for support and prayers.

    Love you Masi stay strong!

  4. Hi all,

    My email is incorrect. It should be x9t(at), not x9tx9t.


  5. Todd "Judge Ito" Komori Says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Masi, his family and teammates. Please know that others care very much and they are not alone in this crisis.

    Thank You Try for Others for being there.

  6. Willie Leleua Says:

    Las Vegas Silverbacks, Las Vegas Sin City Irish , Las Vegas Black Jacks and the UNLV Rugby team will gather this Saturday @ 2:00 4/11/09 for a friendly game at the Silverbowl Pitch. We will fundraise following the game at Nikki Lee’s Sports pub. We invite all ages to attend and support our brother.

    Willie Leleua / Las Vegas Silverbacks RFC

  7. Canadian Phil Says:

    Masi my prayers and thoughts go out to you and your family. I have known you to be a gentleman of the game and a friend off the pitch. I will continue to support you and your family during your recovery and send best wishes your way. We all know that these things happen but hope they never do but yet we still play the game. You are a man among men. Phil

  8. Kiwi Rachel Says:

    Much Aroha cuz, cant wait to see you when you come home!

  9. Kia Ora Masi
    I am thousands of miles away on a little island in NZ and yet I am there with you. Masi, I have never met you yet I sense the strength of your will through the love and admiration you have inspired in others. There can be no greater service to others than to share yourself, your talents, your spirit, your love. You can be proud. Mother Teresa once said; “it’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” You have a lot of love on your side, your reward for all you continue to give to others.
    Heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery and safe return to your family and extended family.
    Helen ( Robert’s ( Rob’s ) Mum )

  10. My prayers are with you masi.

  11. Siaosi and Marsha Says:

    Dear Masi and Epi…….
    Remember us….Siaosi and Marsha from Denver, and TOMMY WONG’S ISLAND RESTAURANT!?
    Please know that many, many prayers are/will be offered. This day of GOOD FRIDAY,,,the suffering of the Lord, our thoughts are with you .
    Also, the Novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus,,,starting today!
    We have total TRUST every moment!
    Also Angie, we remember you too..our condolences to you on your loss!
    God Bless You with His peace!

    We would love to speak with Epi. (303) 373-1137)
    Angels are watching over all of you!
    Love and prayers from Marsha and Siaosi—-Denver

  12. Gary Green Says:

    Great coach, teammate and friend praying for a miracle. Get well brother

  13. Dane Ngahuka/President/Founder/Las Vegas Silverbacks RFC Says:

    Tehei Mauriora,

    May the breath of life seek you out and be with you all.

    I have to say that I am so amazed in the strength that Masi continues to show today, and to learn of the history behind this Man and his Rugby.

    When I first met Masi it was off the field, we were doing Polynesian shows and he was combining his efforts with his loving wife Epi to make sure the show was a success, they are amazing.

    He and I were hanging out one day after I asked him to meet me at a Black Jacks Rugby Game. After that game he said to me, he was recording a Rugby Game and that we should go home and get on the piss and check it out.

    Thats the Masi I know, always willing to help and support others, and always ready to party, lets have a party.

    Kiakaha Mate,

    we love you lots

  14. Masi my families prayers and thoughts go out to you. Over the years we have spent time together on and off the field and I am honored to have played with you. You and your family will be in our prayers. God Bless and stay strong.



  15. We consider Masi, Epi, and Nate to be family. They are always there if you need help and care about the well being of others. I send positive thoughts to them everyday.

  16. Masi-

    I about fell out of my chair when I heard this! We go back many years, and you know how much Staci and I love you, Epi and your whole family brother. Please have someone contact Staci and I in Chicago and let us know what we can do. “You are my brother and I will do anything, you know that” You are a true warrior and you will get through this! My family and I will pray every night for a speedy recovery. Please get my info to Epi 630-674-8236

    I love you bro
    Nicki G

  17. Pat Ka'ano'i Says:

    Aloha e Masi,

    Auwe! The news of you injury came this morning thru Joe Basebase and I was in disbelief of your accident.

    You and Epi are always in our memory and we only wish the best that sicence and prayer can give to you.

    Stay the “Warrior” and wishing you our love and aloha,

    “E ho’omaikai’i ia ‘oe! Much blessing to you and your family.

    Me ke aloha pumehana – Pat Ka’ano’i and family
    Las Vegas, Nevada

  18. Dear Masi, Epi, and rugby mates,
    keep the collective spirit from this outpouring strong in your heart, never loose faith, and pray for the miracle. Not believing it can happen is for the ignorant, but know that for every action, God has a purpose.

  19. Captain , Outback Barbarians Australia Says:

    Best Wishes to Masi, Epi and the rugby comunities of Las vegas , We were there last year on tour and saw the Rugby spirit is alive and well in Vegas.
    May that help you get through this hard time.

    Regards Trent Raymond

  20. Canadian Phil Says:

    Just checking in Masi. I have been out of town for past 9 days and looking for an update. Prayers and best wishes are with you and the family as always. Canadian Phil

  21. Willie Leleua Says:

    Info site for Masi. May be released by tuesday.

  22. rugbymom Says:

    All my best to Masi & his family. My heart goes out to you. This is a beautifully written article about a very unfortunate occurance. There are many stories on the pitch that deserves to be told so well.

  23. Lan-Phuong Says:

    As someone who has gone through the experience of breaking a neck while playing rugby, I know your pain, literally and metaphorically. What gets you through this challenging time is the love and support from your family, your friends, your personal rugby community and the larger rugby community.

    May God bless you and your family…and know that the same determination, spirit and fight on the pitch will help you during your recovery. I truly and sincerely believe that is what got me through my injury. I was paralyzed in various parts of my body, for a short time (it seemed like forever when I was going through it), but your athleticism, will, attitude, therapy and medical care will help you to gain strength and healing every day. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers Masi.

    LP DePoint
    formerly of the Minneapolis Menagerie RFC
    Go purple!!

  24. Ku'uipo Says:

    Aloha Masi, Epi & Nate,
    My/Our love and Aloha from my O’hana to yours from Hawaii to Vegas.
    I’m there for you all, we will do whatever it takes.

    Hula sis Ku’uipo & Pohai

  25. Canadian Phil Says:

    Hey Masi. I heard they moved you back to Vegas this past week. Will try to find out where so I can spread the word to all. god bless and keep your spirits up my friend. Phil

    • Hey, Canadian Phil.

      Just wanted to give you the heads up that Masi is at Healthsouth Hospital at Tenaya in Las Vegas. The address is 2500 North Tenaya Way. He’ll be there for about four weeks or so and then they’ll move him to another rehab facility in Henderson.

      He wanted to see you if you were available. Visiting hours are between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

      Nate (Masi’s kid)

  26. Sweet Masi,

    I am friends with Dom Cooke and your story truly touched my heart. Keep your spirts up and soar toward your recovery. May God Bless you.


    Eileen~~UC Berkeley surrogate Mama

  27. What’s up, everybody!

    This is Nate. I’m Masi’s son. We want to thank you all for the tremendous support and prayers and would like to invite any and all who are available in the Las Vegas area to come visit Masi at Healthsouth Hospital at Tenaya. The address is 2500 North Tenaya Way between Smoke Ranch and Cheyenne.

    Visiting hours are between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily. Masi would love to see you all.

  28. Canadian Phil Says:

    I just came from visiting Masi at HealthSouth RM 502 @ 2500 Tenaya. It is just south of Cheyenne across the street from US Post Office.

    Masi is improving. He can move his shoulders, feel things at the tips of his fingers and is in a very positive frame of mind. He expects to have his feeding tube along with his traque that he needs for breathing removed next week possibly. At which time they will close the hole and shortly thereafter move him to St. Rose @ Eastern for more aggressive therapy. He admits the therapy is stimulating but very tiring.

    He talked extensively about rugby and the support he has recieved. There remains a family/friend member with him at all times as he is not able to move his arms or hands so in case he needs help with something, He watched the Brumbies match Friday night on his son’s laptop. I can’t stress enough his positive attitude towards his rehabiitation along with his keen sense of the sport of rugby. He talked about the Silverbacks and the Blackjacks with their effort this upcoming weekend. Several of their players have come by to visit. He also wanted to know about the DOGs in Catalina so he got the scoop.

    I am planning on visiting him again Monday afternoon around 100pm if anyone would like to join me. He enjoys having the company. When you talk to Masi, you can’t help feeling spirtually lifted by his positive outlook and this should make everyone feel how fortunate they are today. He is a very good and kind man.

    Cheers. Phil

  29. Canadian Phil Says:

    Hoping to drop by tomorrow am before a meeting near the hospital. Anything you would like for me to bring?

  30. Talofa Lava Masi and Epi,

    Awwwe….You both been so good to our son Thomas. A good leader, supporter, and inspirational father and friend to all. Always on the go and helping others reach a goal of enjoyment in entertainment. Our prayers are with you Masi. We pray for strength, peace, knowledge, and happiness!

    May God Bless You & Recovery!

  31. Canadian Phil Says:

    I just came from visiting Masi at HealthSouth RM 502 @ 2500 Tenaya. It is just south of Cheyenne across the street from US Post Office.

    Masi and I watched a little rugby on the laptop on Saturday along with Cris and brother in law. He is awaiting results as to whether or not he will have to go in for another surgery. Should know this week. If not, then they will transport him to Henderson – possibly St. Rose. He iseating some food now as opposed to the feeding tube.

    Drop by and say hello. He enjoys the company. Phil

  32. Danimal Says:


    Glad to see you’re on the up and up. It’s been 20 years since I saw you but it also feels just like yesterday. My 5 year old daughter knows your name…you’re a legend. Hang in there. I’m sure our paths will cross again. With you….

  33. Willie Leleua Says:

    Masi has been moved to Health South Henderson to step up his therapy.
    He is progressing nicely and has more feeling in his limbs. The trache is out of his throat and is now eating solid foods.
    Go to to get info on his fundraiser June 27.
    Thanks for the prayers and support. Still a long road ahead.

    Thanks, Willie Leleua
    Las Vegas Silverbacks RFC

  34. Canadian Phil Says:

    Masi brother. I am back from South Africa and will find you in the next few days. Hope you are doing better. Ton’s of new rugby stories to share along with photos. Phil

  35. Canadian Phil Says:

    Visited with Masi a ouple of times this past weekend. First of all, he has had some very positive response to his physical thearpy where he has moved his arm and legs! Tremendous positive step forward. the family remains positive towards his recovery and first hand I can say without hesitiation, this man is an inspiration to one and all. Finally, Masi is now in room 206 @ the HealthSouth off of St. Rose parkway adjacent (west) to St. Rose Parkway. I have also posted a short video on my FaceBook page showing Masi in therapy and his movement. Yo ucan find this same video on YouTube under masi’s name. Cheers to all and keep the faith and drop by to say hello and help keep his spirits positive. Phil

  36. Marsha and Siasoi Says:

    Hey Epi and Masi….just dropping by to say “hi” and talofa lava !!!

    Wondering how yo are all doing…Please know that you all continue to be in our prayers!

    God Bless you, Masia, Epi, and Nathan!!

    Alofas from marsha and siaosi

  37. Greg Porter Says:

    I am putting together a fundraiser benefit for Masi and Epi. Not sure if you know, but they are getting kicked out of their house. We cannot stop that, but we can try and raise some funds. They are still trusting that God has a plan for them. If you would like to be involed in any way please contact me at I am Epi’s brother Greg. I am looking at a possiable date of june 25th or 26th for the fundraiser. My band Empty Pockets will be playing along with other local bands I hope. Please let me know what you can do to help. If you want to donate just get in touch with me. Nathan their son is in the process of getting an account in Las Vegas for donations. Any amount will help..Thank you in advance and my God bless all of you..

  38. Greg Porter Says:

    I am putting together a fundraiser benefit for Masi and Epi. Not sure if you know, but they are getting kicked out of their house. We cannot stop that, but we can try and raise some funds. They are still trusting that God has a plan for them. If you would like to be involed in any way please contact me at I am Epi’s brother Greg. I am looking at a possiable date of june 25th or 26th for the fundraiser. My band Empty Pockets will be playing along with other local bands I hope. Please let me know what you can do to help. If you want to donate just get in touch with me. Nathan their son is in the process of getting an account in Las Vegas for donations. Any amount will help..Thank you in advance and my God bless all of you..

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