ASRU, SRU chairmen appeal for support
The chairmen of the American Samoa Rugby Union and Samoa Rugby Union urged local business owners and our government to unite and support rugby development in the territory, because our local rugby union is financially unable to send their team off island, which hinders our team moving up the ranks to the highest level.
This was the message from the current chairmen of the two Samoas rugby unions, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi (Samoa Rugby Union) and former governor Togiola T. A Tulafono (American Samoa Rugby Union), respectively, during the Meet the Players dinner of the 2nd Annual TMO Marist Pago 7’s last Thursday night at the Gov. Rex Lee Auditorium.
Speaking about how rugby became successful in Samoa today, Tuilaepa said the Marist St. Joseph 7’s tournament in Samoa provided a good path for local players to become members of the Manu Samoa 15 and 7s.
During the beginning of the Marist St. Joseph 7s in Samoa, the club brought some of the top rugby players from New Zealand like Michael Jones, to compete with local rugby players in Samoa and during the game, local players got a chance to tackle these players from off island and from there they noticed that the off-island players' bodies were not made of iron, they were the same.
“From there, local players got the confidence that if these players from off island can play good rugby, they can also do the same thing, and from there Manu Samoa players improved the way they play the game and helped to overcome their fear when its come to international level,” said Tuilaepa.
Also present during the dinner last Thursday night were some of the well known Manu Samoa players like Namulauulu Fred Tuilagi, who is now playing rugby in England; Muliagatele Brian Lima, who is the current Samoa A coach; Too Vaega and Stan Toomalatai.
Gov. Lolo M. Moliga also spoke at the dinner, saying that the old fashioned rugby he used to played in Manu’a in the 1950s and 1960 is different from the level rugby is up to now, because rugby in the old fashion way, used to mean only one thing, muscles, but today’s game involves three most important things, “the muscles, the heart and the mind.”
He also acknowledged Togiola for his hard work to bring the level of rugby in American Samoa to this stage. Gov. Lolo promised that he would continue to support the effort by Togiola, not only to promote the spirit of the game, but also to find ways to make sure the government will support this kind of activity.
Togiola in his remarks, said that he was very excited when he saw the commitment by government and business leaders to work hand in hand, side by side, with the rugby union to support the game and the development of youth through the game of rugby.
“I can say that we may never see a professional football team or even a professional basketball team coming out of American Samoa, but I can tell you, by the work of the ASRU is doing, we will see the first professional team coming out from American Samoa in rugby,” said Togiola.
The rugby game in American Samoa today is developing, but there were also some difficulties the union are facing while trying to develop the game, especially the cost to send a local team outside of American Samoa.
“Rugby is different because in this development, we’re competing with kids who want to play American football, we’re competing with soccer… so when we sent our first ‘Under 19’ team to Samoa last year it was very difficult to put together a team, because the best talented players that we have didn’t go to the tournament because of school and other commitments they face,” said Togiola.
Togiola said, both Under 19 and the American Samoa 7’s team face the same challenge last year when their best player couldn’t go to the Oceania Tournament that was held in Australia, because not only did the union not have the money to pay for the players' allowances, but some players couldn’t take time off from their jobs in private companies and the union could not force private companies to give leave to these players.
“Some players were threatened by their employers that if they go to the tournament, they have to look for job whey they come back, so we went to these tournaments without our best team from American Samoa, but things changed when we were admitted to full membership in the IRB, and they are now assisting us in paying the participation fees, but the balance is paid by the unions,” said Togiola.
The ASRU is planning to send its first ever 15-a-side team to compete in the Oceania Cup in Papua New Guinea on July 3rd, 2013, and the union is appealing to all local business owners to give their support so they can send the best team to represent American Samoa