Success provides a solid platform to build upon

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

There is reason to be excited about the recent success of the Samoa Under 18 Sevens team during the Commonwealth Youth Games. 

Having conquered England in the final of the tournament, the La’auli Rudy Leavasa-coached team made up completely of local players returned home last week to a joyful welcome by the Samoa Rugby Union.

Naturally, it was a fabulous occasion. But why not? Who doesn’t enjoy sweet success, especially when the odds are heavily stacked against us?

Mind you, there was more to it. Way more. You see, it wasn’t the just the winning of a gold medal at the Commonwealth level that was at stake. 

The victory meant a lot more. It was a much welcomed relief for the Samoa Rugby Union and the local rugby family who had been put under a lot of grief as a result of the performance – or rather the poor results - of the senior national teams. 

We don’t need to tell you about this anymore. Everyone knows what is happening including the somewhat unsurprising decision by the powers that be to undergo another exhaustive review to determine the future of certain officials. 

But then that’s not what this piece is about.

Today is about savouring sweet, sweet success. It’s about rejoicing and congratulating coach La’auli Rudy, captain Sione Young Yen, all the players, their families and everyone who played a part in the team’s success.

It has been a long time between drinks in terms of success for Samoan rugby. But what is especially sweet about this victory is the fact we are talking about young players who will ultimately become the future of Samoan rugby. Indeed, this augurs very well for the future prospects of this nation.

What’s needed now is for the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U) to secure these players, give them every opportunity to develop their talents and make sure they fulfill their potential. 

It’s undeniable that scouts will have already looked at some of these players during the Commonwealth Games with the idea of recruiting them for professional contracts. That’s the reality.

If we are serious about the future and maintaining these players for our national teams, the Union has to be proactive rather than being reactive to keep them. It’s foolish to think we can keep them in Samoa but there has got to be a better way to ensure they return to represent Samoa.

At their tender age, who better to develop them than the master himself, Sir Gordon Tietjens? It would be fantastic if some of these players somehow found their way into the national Sevens team. They can sure bolster of sagging fortunes at this stage.

Now, during the welcome last week, the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, made a very telling comment.

 “This should also be a lesson for us to stop getting overseas players,” he said. “Today we have witnessed the result and this is the answer, we can do it on our own.”

Minister Loau has a valid point. It is especially so when we stop to consider the last time we enjoyed a Sevens Series world title was when the team was completely local.

But then we all know it’s easier said than done. And the dynamics of the game have changed dramatically too. 

Still it’s a thought worth considering. Our only suggestion is to ensure all sides of the equation are considered before a final decision is made. We must never deride the passion and commitment of our Samoan players outside of Samoa. Besides, they are Samoans and they have every right to put on that blue jersey if they are the best players available. 

Now when Captain, Sione Young Yen, was asked about their success at the Commonwealth Games, he made another very interesting comment.

“I told my brothers that this is our time and we cannot do it without having one heart,” he recalled his message prior to the final.

“We played with that motto in our heads. We were also thinking of our families as well as the country who are cheering and praying for us.”

This immediately reminds us of about the comments made by former Manu Samoa Sevens star, Lolo Lui, when he was part of that victorious team. When they win a tournament, Lui said they always look forward to coming home. 

But when they lose, the three-hour flight from Auckland to Faleolo becomes the longest flight as they dread coming home with the bad news. 

Could it be that local players feel more accountable to Samoa because they return to face the music when they fail? Could that also be used as a factor to change our fortunes in going forward?

Share your thoughts with us.

In the meantime, we want congratulate the Samoa Under 18 team once more for giving us a nice break from miserable rugby news of the past few weeks.

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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