TMO Marist 7s Flag Day Tournament — last hurrah
The 3rd and last TMO Marist American Samoa 7s Flag Day Tournament will take place at the Tafuna Veterans Stadium on the 11th and 12th of April.
Eight local teams will play for the championship Cup and $10,000 first prize. They are: A’asu, Avele, Vailoa, Marist, Nu’uuli, Lauli’i, Lalomalava, and Leone. They will do battle against 15 teams from Samoa.
TMO, the tournament’s major sponsor is proud to feature profiles of the eight ASRU clubs that will take part in next week’s competition, with the 15 teams from Samoa to follow.
Today, TMO presents the Avele Rugby team from Tafuna.
“Avele President Questions Why Other Teams Are Not Playing”
The president of Avele Rugby club, Kolose Itu Poloa was one of the best referees in American Samoa. He has since retired from rugby but gives support to his club and shares his knowledge of the game with the players.
In our conversation last week, when Poloa visited his club team at the CCCAS Kanana Fou field where they hold practice, he asked why some teams were not included in the TMO Marist international 7’s next week. He mentioned the Fagatogo team in particular and wondered why it was left out.
Fagatogo is one of the best rugby clubs in the territory, but is currently serving a one-year suspension from playing in any ASRU tournament because of a fight that broke out in one of its matches during the 2013 ASRU season. The union handed down the suspension last year. Poloa said he was aware of Fagatogo’s situation, but insisted that it should have been included in the tournament.
This correspondent contacted the chairman of the TMO Marist Pago 7’s competition, Si’igava’a Tauileave Toluono for an explanation and reason why Fagatogo is not playing in their tournament next week.
He explained, “The Fagatogo Rugby club has been suspended by the ASRU from playing rugby in the territory because of unsportsmanlike conduct. Marist honors and respects the ASRU action against Fagatogo. Our decision is in line with international protocol in these matters. Our tournament is sanctioned by the ASRU and we must abide by its rules and regulations.
“Another topic I’d like to address that was raised by several coaches is the allowing of guest players to play in local club teams for the TMO Marist 7’s international competition,” Si’igava’a said.
“I want to emphasize a point to these coaches and for the public’s understanding on this matter. Marist did not lift the ban imposed by the ASRU on guest players. That was the sole decision made by the union. Marist Pago has nothing to do with it. Having said that, Marist welcomes all international players who will be playing for club teams next week,”he stated.
The Avele Rugby Club was formed in 2004 and itS team is one of the best in the history of the sport in American Samoa. Two club members were in Hong Kong last week with the Talavalu team.
Avele’s coach, Tommy Elisara served as manager and assistant coach, while player, Niki Kata Lua appeared in the prop position for all of Talavalu’s three matches.
In the absence of Elisara, his assistant, Solomona Mulitalo steps in to take over the coaching duties until Talavalu’s manager returns this week.
More than 10 Avele players turn up everyday for the club’s preparations for next week’s TMO Marist American Samoa international sevens. They use the CCCAS Kanana Fou field for their practice.
Mulitalo says it is hard to motivate the players to come to practice everyday as many of them have family and employment obligations.
“We’re lucky if we have 10 players in one day for practice. Some are just plain lazy to come and train. But we do what we have to do to prepare our team for the competition.”
Even the CCCAS teacher/preacher is lending a helping hand in training Avele’s squad. “We’re very grateful for his service,” Mulitalo says.
The temporary coach is a former Avele player. At age 36, Mulitalo insists that he can still play rugby but in the 15-man code. Mulitalo, who is originally from Saluafata, Samoa works for Tropical Beverage in Faga’ima. He lives in Masefau with his wife Marlene and family. She is a teacher at Faga’itua High School.
Before he left for Hong Kong last week, Avele coach, Elisara told this correspondent that he was bringing guest players from Apia to play in his squad.
“I’m glad that the ASRU has finally allowed the use of players from off island for just this one tournament. It is a great way to promote rugby here. The local players will be thrilled to have a known player from Apia, New Zealand or Fiji run along side them and share their experience.
“I fought hard for this opportunity to open up. As a coach, I know the benefits and rewards players get from playing with international stars. Not only do they lift their game up, but also they look up at them as their idols. They also try to emulate their play, and listen carefully to what they teach and do.”
Mulitalo wants to share his knowledge with players in his team. He claims that some of the young ones did not know how to play rugby when they first joined. “But we were patient with them and now they are good at the sport.”
Avele president, Poloa wants to show his appreciation and to thank Marist for hosting the international tournament for the past two years. He believes rugby in American Samoa has grown and become well known among the young generation because of the Marist 7’s popularity.
Poloa wishes all teams the best as they set out to play against some of the top clubs from Samoa in next week’s TMO Marist Pago International 7’s competition.