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TMO Marist 7s Flag Day Tourney ready, set to go

The 3rd and last TMO Marist American Samoa Flag Day 7’s tournament will take place at the Tafuna Veterans Stadium on the 11th and 12th of April this year.


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.


Tautua Mo Oe, the tournament’s major sponsor is proud to feature profiles of the eight ASRU clubs that will take part in next week’s competition. Today, TMO presents the Lauli’i team — Moli Ole Ava.


Entering the village of Lauli’i on the eastern side of Tutuila Island, one has to climb a small hill where the lighthouse stands that the village rugby club is named after — Moli ole Ava. It is one of the most successful, consistent, and oldest clubs in American Samoa. Many well known players have emerged from Lauli’i such as Vui Eli Tagaloa, the current coach, Ropeti Taula, and others.


Moli ole Ava has the most players in the Talavalu team that is representing American Samoa in Hong Kong this week. They are: team captain, Fe’ite Alo Okesene, Joseph Poyer, Tavita Silva, and Ross Poyer (non traveling reserve).


Last year, Lauli’i was named the territory’s #1 seven’s team after the TMO Marist Sports Club Pago seven’s tournament. As a result, ASRU sent the Moli Ole Ava to honor an invitation from Fiji to represent the territory in one of that country’s premier seven’s competitions, the Coral Coast.


Coaching the Lauli’i squad in only his second year on the job is 36-year old, Ropeti Taula. He played for the Moli ole Ava since he arrived here from Lalomanu, Aleipata in 1996, and lived with his family, Aliki Tualatamalelagi in Lauli’i. He is married to Te’e Peters and they have four sons. He is unemployed at this time.


“I took over the head coach position when Vui Tagaloa retired two years ago”. He has two assistant coaches and trainers; Jeffery Tagaloa, and Moana Fa’alavelave, and physiotherapist, Mathew Park.


Vui has been involved with rugby for many decades as a player and coach, and later was named manager of the Talavalu team. He also traveled with the American Samoa Golden Oldies rugby group that participated in the World Rugby Cup tournament that was held in Capetown, South Africa in 1999.


Taula does not agree with the new arrangement that Marist has in place for this year’s tournament and he shares his thoughts.


“The TMO American Samoa Marist Sports club Flag Day tournament organizers have taken a step away from ASRU rules and allowed local clubs to include off-island guest players in their squads. For me, that defeats the purpose of what the ASRU and clubs are trying to accomplish. 


“We’re developing our local players and introducing the game to the young athletes who show interest and enthusiasm. But to import players is a step backward. They come and take positions in the club teams that should be occupied by the local players, thus denying them their chance in the limelight,” he said.


Taula says he is sticking with his proven squad of 20 players and with the experience of his Talavalu stars, he believes Lauli’i will surprise off-island teams with their speed and skills.


The youngest in the squad is, Gus Poyer who is 16 years old and attends Faga’itua High School. He is the brother of two Poyer players on the Talavalu team, Joseph, and Ross. Coach Taula says he has players from the village of Faga’itua in the squad. 


“We are running well and our trip to Fiji has taught us a lot of new techniques in ball handling and the way we train. Our players are young and eager to play for our village pride.”


Taula explains that the sport is growing and is attracting many young potential players. “Rugby is offering another alternative to the territorial athletes. Many are playing football, soccer, baseball, and other sports. Now rugby has a foot in the door and gives the players many opportunities to travel, see the world, represent their American Samoa in international competitions, and learn new things. 


“The Talavalu team’s popularity and its current trip to Hong Kong has captured their interest. A lot of the young players on our team cite that as motivation to play rugby.”


The Lauli’i squad trains at Onesosopo Park and shares the playground with the Faga’itua High school football and baseball teams that also hold practices there.


The Lauli’i coach wants to thank the Marist Sports Club for hosting this tournament. “It has exposed the hidden rugby talents many players possess but lacked opportunities to showcase them.”


Taula wishes to thank the Moli ole Ava supporters, the six denominations in Lauli’i, family and friends, and village fans.


“Lauli’i has always been generous when it comes to supporting all our rugby campaigns. We humbly ask our village and the public to again please donate to our cause when we seek your help. We will play our hearts out for you in the upcoming Marist tournament — Thank You.”