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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, Tafuna Jets, 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 profiles of the 15 teams from Samoa to begin on Saturday, Apr. 5th.


In the latest development on the 7’s competition, one team from the original eight local squads that was scheduled to play next week has been dropped. Chairman of the TMO Marist Pago International 7’s tournament, Si’igava’a Tauileave Toluono explained that Vailoa was cut because it did not meet the deadline set for the registration of teams.


“Vailoa has been replaced by the Tafuna Jets. Two other local clubs were on the verge of being dropped as well, but they came begging for a chance to play and we accepted their late registration. We extended the deadline three times to accommodate their wishes, but they procrastinated in paying the registration fee of $400 and nearly lost their places in the tournament.”


Si’igava’a said that Marist was not waiting around for local clubs as they dragged their feet in registering their teams for the competition.


“Marist runs this tournament in a professional way and expects local clubs to act in that manner as well. Marist has to maintain its good reputation and the high level this tournament has reached since its inception. We contacted teams from Samoa that were on standby to fill the vacancies that were going to open up if we had decided to cut the two local clubs involved. They were ready to travel and happy to be a part of the tournament.


“It is sad that our own clubs here take these matters lightly when compared to Samoa that has 15 teams competing. They all met the first deadline and paid their fees accordingly. I wish our local clubs would conduct themselves in a professional manner and be serious about the development of rugby here in American Samoa,” Si’igava’a commented.


Today, TMO presents the Lalomalava team.


“Is Lalomalava Serious About Playing in TMO Marist 7’s?”


Tesimale Faitaua’e had never experienced playing in front of thousands of screaming spectators. “I was so nervous, looking up at the stand and seeing many people watching us play. We couldn’t communicate with each other on the field. We couldn’t hear ourselves as the thunderous cheering from thousands of people drowned our voices. It was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget,” Faitaua’e recalled. 


He was a member of the Talavalu team that represented American Samoa in last week’s IRB 12 team international qualifier tournament that was held in Hong Kong. He played two matches against Italy and Hong Kong, but sat out the last game against Tunisia because of an ankle injury.


Faitaua’e told this correspondent that American Samoa, if given another chance would be ready now that their initiation to big time rugby is behind them. “We know what to do next time, we will not be mesmerized by the crowd, we’ll just have to plough our way through.”


The Talavalu squad and Faitaua’e arrived in the territory on Tuesday. He is back with his Lalomalava team and shares his experience with teammates. “We learned a few things from Hong Kong, like new rules and techniques. I’m helping out with the boys and hope that we can put together some moves to use in next week’s Marist tournament. Right now, we’re concentrating in getting our stamina.”


He may be the only fit person in his Lalomalava team. Faitaua’e serves as vice captain. They practice at the field opposite the ANZ Amerika Samoa bank in Tafuna. Captain, Fa’afetai Siaula’iga, said, “we just started our training today, (Wednesday)”.


Their coach, Latu Mavaega did not even turn up to lead his team in practice. “Maybe he is too busy today,” captain Siaula’iga commented.


This correspondent was looking for the Lalomalava players for the last two weeks, visiting all the fields in Tafuna to find them for this TMO profile series but to no avail. It was only Wednesday when I saw them for the first time throwing the ball around at the Tafuna field.


I also contacted the owner of the Lalomalava team, Sa Mavaega, the ASRU tournament director last week, but he too said he did not know where the team was holding practice.


Lalomalava has over 10 players in the squad. Skipper, Siaula’iga and Faitaua’e are responsible for training, holding ball skill drills, and teaching other moves in the absence of their coach. 


The vice captain explained some of the new rules in 7’s rugby for the players’ understanding especially during rucks. “We learned a lot of rules that we did not fully understand before and I’m trying my very best to make our players aware of them.”


There are 10 veteran players in the Lalomalava squad. Other members are new and young who have just joined the team. The captain said they were teaching them the methods of playing and hope they would improve soon and become good at the game.


“They show promise and are enthusiastic about playing rugby. We just need to be patient with them. After all, they are the future of this team and possibly if they’re good enough, they may be selected to the Talavalu team.”


Siaula’iga is delighted with his vice captain, Faitaua’e. “The team is very pleased that we had a representative in American Samoa’s national squad in Hong Kong. Tesi has honored us with his play and conduct. He has inspired us to reach new heights with our goals in life and in rugby. He is a remarkable person and a good ambassador for the territory.”


Captain Siula’iga is 30 years of age, a graduate of Leone High School in 2006. He said he did not play football there but represented the Lions in soccer and volleyball.


He lives in Pava’ia’i with his family headed by Siula’iga Namulau’ulu. He came from the village of Sapapali’i, Savaii when he was 10 years old. The Lalomalava skipper is unemployed, but wants to continue his education at ASCC. 


“After I graduated from Leone High, I attended ASCC but did not finish my two years there. I want to go back and complete my courses some day.”


The Lalomalava skipper advised his young players to learn the game of rugby and play their best for their team as well as for the good name of the territory. “One of these days, they may be selected to the national squad, so this is the time for them to show their talent. When the time comes for them to represent American Samoa in international tournaments, they will be ready.”