The A’au Trio: a rugby powerhouse


Heather Stewart

(From left to right) Sisters Tiara, Suiluana, and Tiana A’au play together on CWU’s Women’s Rugby team.

Dez Rodriguez, Staff Reporter

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, the A’au sisters thought back to the time when they were woken up at 3 a.m. to progress their athletic abilities. Still only in elementary school, Sui A’au and twins Tiara and Tiana A’au were trained by their father, Tia A’au, to prepare them for their upcoming sports. Now at CWU, the trio already has an All-American selection under their belts and they’re only getting started.

It started out as a family of four sisters looking to be part of something special. Each were very athletic growing up, but the lack of true passion for a specific sport left something to be desired. That’s when rugby was found.

“Me and my sister [Naomi A’au] joined basketball and found out that wasn’t our sport when one of our friends introduced rugby to us,” Sui said. “We never heard of rugby, but we went to the first practice and had a strong interest. Then the ‘twin towers’ came.”

The nickname “twin towers” was brought along when Tiara and Tiana arrived, and they arrived with a bang. The twin sisters participated in every sport they had time for growing up. After watching their older sister take part in the physical sport, they fell in love with it.

Heather Stewart
Suiluana A’au (Junior) prepares to practice a back pass where she will lay on the ground towards her team to put the ball back in play.

“I loved the hits and the aggressiveness,” Tiara said. “I love the adrenaline that comes with it.”

The 4-mile runs and suicide workouts of the early mornings in elementary school helped better prepare them when they tried out for the rugby team. The twins made an immediate impact on the Grant Generals Rugby squad, a club team in Portland, Oregon.

In 2018, after going through successful seasons, all three sisters were selected for the Women’s Junior All-Americans, a team of 25 under-20 athletes that traveled to Nova Scotia for matches against Canada and England. The trio all cracked the starting lineup for their opening game and performed at a high level on the big stage.

The legacy continued when the U.S. Women’s National Team opened a high performance training camp in Chula Vista, California, at the Olympic Training Center. Tiana and Sui worked out while Tiara was forced to sit out after suffering a concussion.

Before the camp for the selection of the National League, Tiana attended a running start program that prepared athletes at her young age for the league. After performing at a high level, she was awarded with a roster spot on the U.S. Women’s National Team.

“I leave at the end of this month to go to Chicago and meet with the whole team,” Tiana said. “Then we’re flying out to the UK.”

The schedule involves an opening clash with number one ranked New Zealand. It then follows up with matches against England and Ireland.

Before the glory, Sui had a focus on setting her family up for the future. At the conclusion of her senior year at Jefferson High School in Portland Oregon, she reached out to previous CWU women’s rugby head coach Mel Denham.

“I begged her to take me and my sisters in,” Sui A’au said. “She had me and my older sister come out for a recruit and that was it.”

Twins Tiana (top) and Tiara A’au (bottom) love playing rugby together here at CWU and have played together since they were kids.

Naomi A’au chose a different path than rugby, and is back in Portland rooting for her sisters. The trio can be seen leading the women’s rugby team in Tomlinson Stadium at CWU.

“I feel like it’s home here because we’re all together,” Tiara said. “I feel like we can just count on each other every time because it’s my blood sisters.”

Being blood sisters often times brought out a different level of competition when practicing against each other. Wanting to get the best of the other sister would bring out another gear when they would face off.

“Our coaches would tell us to go in different lines to go against other players,” Tiara said.

“All of us, everytime we go against each other, at least one of us is gonna get injured. We really go at it,” Sui added.

The CWU Women’s Rugby team made the switch to D1 athletics this year. They are the only D1 Rugby team on the west coast.

“It puts us at a higher standard and to continue pushing ourselves,” Sui said.

The team not only made the jump to D1, but they are also under the leadership of new full-time head coach Trevor Richards. Regardless of where the team ends up by the end of the season, the trio are thankful for the workouts they were put through at a young age. These experiences helped them shine in the new sport and provided them with a foundation to build on their legacy for years to come, even after CWU.

“We all have a good bond and have a good team,” Tiana said. “We just have to keep working hard and the rest will come.”