Leo: “The Players threatened To Walk Out”
Another Manu Samoa veteran player, Daniel Leo has come forward and revealed more bad news in the Manu Samoa camp even before the World Cup began on September 14.
He wrote to the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi of Samoa that the “players threatened to walk out” over money issue and the unwillingness of the Manu Samoa management to pay the players their weekly allowances while they were in Samoa preparing and fund raising for the World Cup tournament.
“Before the World Cup, there were big issues over payments that caused a lot of stress to the team. Reduced payments and reluctance to reimburse flights, these issues were finally resolved with the SRU Board when we, the players threatened to walk out.”
Daniel Leo was born in New Zealand on October 2 1982 in Dunedin, in the South Island. After playing rugby in Aotearoa and finishing his education there, the family moved to Australia when he was 18 years old. He played with the Sunnybank club in Queensland and later joined the Queensland Reds.
He is the tallest Manu Samoa player standing at six feet and seven inches and plays in the lock position. He later moved to England where he continued his professional rugby career with the London Wasps.
In 2005, Leo debuted for Manu Samoa when Samoa played Australia’s Wallabies at Telstra Stadium in Sydney. He has since played 29 tests for Samoa and was selected for the Pacific Islanders squad (made up of players from Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa) that toured Europe in 2006. He played three matches during that trip.
In 2007, Leo was picked by then coach, La’auli Michael Jones (one of his two rugby heroes. The other one is the Samoan born former All Blacks’ 2nd five, Eroni Clarke) to play for the Manu Samoa team in the 2007 World Cup tournament that was held in France.
It was there that the scouts of the Union Bordeaux Begles rugby club spotted the tall Samoan lock and offered him a contract. He is still playing for the French club.
Leo lists Sean Connery as his favorite actor, prefers Burger King over Big Mac, and loves the Godfather movies. Ironically, he shares the same name with a reputed Mafia boss, Daniel “Danny the Lion” Leo, who is currently being jailed in a Manhattan Federal prison.
The 2011 World Cup tournament was Leo’s second for Samoa and was very critical of the Manu Samoa management in their many missteps in public relations, money situations and other issues during Samoa’s campaign.
He wrote his letter to the chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, endorsing captain Mahonri Schwalger’s account that Samoa News Sports detailed this week. This is Daniel Leo’s letter:
To the President of the Samoan Rugby Union, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi
In support of Mahonri’s report, here is my personal account of the Samoan Rugby Union Board and management team over the duration of the Rugby World Cup. I have dealt in facts and avoided speculation as best as I can.
Before the World Cup, there were big issues over payments that caused a lot of stress to the team. Reduced payments and reluctance to reimburse flights, these issues were finally resolved with the SRU Board when we, the players threatened to walk out.
During the World Cup camp and during the World Cup, there were a lot of problems with scheduling. The team manager would often schedule public appearances and media events during ‘recovery time’ and sometimes only minutes or hours before the event was to take place. This took a toll both mentally and physically. We tried our best to fulfill all requirements, especially when the public was involved, but it was impossible to keep everyone happy at such short notice.
The lack of planning raises questions over the management teams scheduling skills. Often we, the team were embarrassed because we were not made aware of events that the Board and manager had organized for us, and hence turned up late or missed them completely.
There was little or no training gear in the five-week camp leading up to the World Cup. Hotels were inadequate and the players had many doubts about where the millions of dollars that had been generously donated were being used. We never did find out, but it was obvious that it was not being used on the team. These and other issues needed to be raised with the Manager but often he was nowhere to be found. His number 2, Ryan Schuster had no answers and always made excuses, pointing further up the chain.
When the Deputy Chairman met with the team, he blamed a lack of communication between the manager and the players yet nothing was done to fix the problem. Everyone pointed at someone else yet no body was willing to admit fault over any issues or offer us any solutions as to how they would be overcome. It was as if they didn’t realize that they were the end of the command chain.
As for the day-to-day management of the team during the World Cup, it was a comedy of errors from start to finish. Player’s tickets were left until match day to be organized. Hours were wasted on buses when appearances were scheduled in Cities and Towns nowhere near the team base, again and as usual, at last minute notice. After the last match against South Africa, when you would expect a debrief from the manager in regard to travel home, the manager was nowhere to be found, leaving the players to fend for themselves as was usual by this stage. The whole had become a bad joke.
It was clear to me as a player that those in charge of Manu Samoa’s World Cup campaign were incompetent. From the Board who made it as hard as possible for us financially, to the manager who couldn’t even afford us his time, we the players felt annoyed and often confused at how poorly the team was being managed. For me personally, it was a huge distraction having to see so many silly issues go on that could have been easily resolved.
The coaching staff, strength & conditioners and physios did extremely well given those they had to work with. I don’t know how they did it, but I am grateful to them because I know that there were many more issues going on that they shielded us from.
I hope and pray that this can be sorted out, that the right people will be appointed for the good of the people who gave and continue to give this team so much.
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