The 53-year-old Moon, who was an assistant coach for Auckland recently, passed away earlier this week while on rugby coaching assignment in Italy.
CIRU president Sean Smith said Moonie, as he was known in the rugby circle, was well known to the Cook Islands rugby community as the head coach of the Mt Albert Grammar (MAGS) development teams that toured Rarotonga on three occasions. MAGS first toured the country in October 2013, 2015 and last year.
“Moonie’s outlook on the MAGS rugby tours was holistic and more than just playing rugby – lessons of respect, culture, and unity prevalent throughout. The purpose of the tours was to develop a team for two years’ time, allow our senior players to pass on our team culture to the young ones and to understand the value of touring the Cook Islands by fully engaging the people and becoming locals while we are here,” Smith said in a statement.
“The touring team would bring the beautiful William Kati Heather Shield with them and pay respects to his family and also visit his burial site here in Rarotonga whilst on tour. This belief was proved with Mt Albert Grammar consistently producing more New Zealand Secondary School Rugby team players than any other high school in New Zealand.”
Smith said Moonie had also been an integral part of developing young Cook Islands rugby players and athletes who have attended MAGS or have been part of the Auckland rugby scene.
Some of these players are back living and playing here in Rarotonga and are a testament to his legacy in rugby development, he added.
“Moonie’s ongoing commitment to maintaining a healthy relationship with the Cook Islands Rugby Union has fostered a great connection between the school and Cook Islanders alike and for that we cannot thank him enough.
“To quote the man, a fond and frequently used phrase was, ‘champions adapt’. He applied the same mantra to his approach on life, making time to do the things that he loved with his rugby family no matter what challenges were on the horizon.
“Today our thoughts and prayers are with Ang and the family – wishing them peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to hold in our hearts as we remember this wonderful man who had a heart to serve the community and made time to bless others.
“From all of us here in the Cook Islands – aere maru e Toa.”