BLUESKY BRINGS YOU AMERICAN SAMOA RUGBY ON THE WAY TO HONG KONG 7s
Bluesky Communications, the major sponsor of American Samoa’s national 7’s rugby team, is proud to present profiles of the players and officials who will represent the territory at the upcoming IRB Hong Kong Qualifier tournament scheduled for March 28 for three days.
The team has arrived in Hong Kong, safely, for the qualifier tourney, after leaving last week Friday, Mar. 21.
Today, Bluesky features Talavalu’s physiotherapist, Monique Solofa and assistant coach/manager, Tommy Elisara (43).
Solofa was born in Hamilton, New Zealand and moved to Independent Samoa with her parents, the late Lemalu Mark, and mom, Cecilia Toniga Tuioti Solofa. She attended Samoa College in 1984 and later went to the National University of Samoa where she was awarded a scholarship to study at Flinders University of South Australia.
Solofa graduated with a B.A. in English and returned to Samoa to become a teacher. Her wish did not happen as her parents moved to American Samoa to start a family business, Solofa Insurance company. She worked there for a long time, but is now being employed at P-Pacific Consultants as Office manager.
How did you get the job as the physiotherapist with the ASRU?
“My involvement in rugby started in 2009 when the then American Samoa Rugby Board asked me to be the trainer for the two teams training for the Marist 7's (in Apia) that same year. I had only worked with the high school football teams covering the sideline but never rugby until that point.
“From then on and up until the present time, I've been the trainer for the Am. Samoa National 7's and 15’s squad. I have traveled with the team since 2009 when the American Samoa team first made its appearance at the FORU Oceania 7's. In 2012, I also accompanied the Talavalu to Sydney, Australia and in all their other tournaments”. In 2013, Solofa was appointed as the secretary of the ASRU.
Solofa says she finds it difficult to manage her time between family, her two children, and her rugby appetite.
“It's been a big sacrifice and sometimes hard on my family and children especially my mom who has been helping me raise my children. But it is a passion I've not been able to stifle. I'm proud to be part of this bit of history for American Samoa and the Rugby Union with the first appearance in Hong Kong”.
Solofa is a single mom to her two children, 11-year old son, Mareko and daughter, Nolani Chanel Solofa, who is five.
She is the eldest in the family of two sisters: Nolani Solofa, and Nadine Solofa-Taufa’asau, and one brother: Mark Jason Solofa.
Elisara has been around rugby for a very long time. He started off in Samoa when he attended Avele College in the 90’s. There, he was selected in the Samoa representative team that played in the Under 20 World championship that was held in New Zealand. Some up and coming Manu Samoa stars were in that team, according to Elisara.
“We had Semo Sititi and Toa Samania.” Sititi and Samania went on to play for Samoa’s world sevens team with Sititi being named as captain of Manu Samoa IRB 7’s team.
Later on both were picked in the 15-man Manu Samoa team that played in World Cup tournaments. Sititi was again named as skipper in the Manu Samoa 15 man squad. Both have since retired from professional rugby.
In 1990, Elisara moved to New Zealand and continued his education in Aotearoa. He joined the Waitemata club that the famous former All Blacks and Manu Samoa player, Michael Jones formed. Elisara claimed he was selected in the Auckland Under 21 representative team.
Elisara said he played for his village Moata’a’s 7’s team that included the legend, Michael Jones, Manu Samoa stars, To’o Vaega, Filipo Sa’ena, Taufusi Salesa, Anitele’a Aiolupo, Lolani Koko and many others.
After graduating from his alma mater, Elisara joined the Avele College faculty in 1993 for two years and became one of the most successful coaches there.
In 2005, Elisara arrived in Hawai’i and lived there for five years. He joined the Honolulu Chiefs rugby club where he was named coach/player. He returned to American Samoa and formed the Pepsi club. When he left, he initiated the formation of the Lepua Samoa club and in 2004, Elisara and some Avele College alumnae got together and started the Avele Rugby club.
“We are one of the oldest clubs in the American Samoa Rugby Union. We were the first local team to capture the Flag Day 7’s championship when we beat Tepatasi from Samoa in the final some years ago,” Elisara recalls.
He is the current Avele coach and former American Samoa Talavalu head coach for a long time. In his playing days and as the American Samoa coach, Elisara represented the territory in international competitions, in Samoa, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and the Cook Islands.
Commenting on the condition of the players, Elisara says the players are fit. “The level of rugby as demonstrated by the team is up to par with some of the best teams that we will encounter in Hong Kong. The mental aspect of the game is where we’re working hard on. They need to handle the pressure when the going gets tough.
“When situations are tight during a game, our players must be careful not to give away ball possession. They have to be alert and stick to the game plan and not fall back to their bad habits of missing tackles, dropped passes or blow their cool. If we can have discipline throughout the 14 minutes of play, we’ll be alright.”
Elisara is married to Moliga and they have three children. The family lives in Ili’ili. The Talavalu manager and assistant coach has a public transportation business operating several taxis.
Photo below: The American Samoa national team — Talavalu — was fortunate this morning (Wednesday, Hong Kong time) to scrimmage against the Manu Samoa Team, from Samoa. The scrimmage was to test the ability of our team and our fitness level, along with their knowledge of the IRB 7’s rules. The rules were stressed this morning in a Team Managers meeting with all participating coaches and referees.
It was a close game that ended up in a tie with our Talavalu team putting in an impressive performance. Head Coach Setefano when asked for a comment stated that he is hopeful after this game that the guys are physically and mentally fit for the upcoming tournament.
“I wanted to test their ability to focus on the game. It’s been good,” he said. [photo: TCA]