Rejoice Malaitai (26) of Tanumapua was shocked to be named in the Samoan open women’s team for the Touch World Cup in Malaysia in April and May.
She said she didn’t even expect to be a trialist.
“I didn’t go [to the event] the night they announced the team, I was taking someone to the hospital.
“They texted that I made the team and I did not believe what I was reading.”
She said she is excited to represent Samoa for the very first time, but training with the national team has been a real struggle.
“It’s a different level and it’s so tough now.”
“There are days I struggle to finish the sets and all I could feel is pain all over my body and the thought of giving up.”
But Malaitai said she get’s through it with the help of her teammates, who all support each other.
“Seeing the girls and how they push themselves, it helped me a lot to get up and continue on.
Malaitai works full time as a revenue accountant at Samoa Airways, having moved from a role at Isitolo Leota Chartered Accountants in January.
It’s a 8.30-5 job, which usually leaves time for training after work three times a week
She said it can be overwhelming trying to balance work and training, as well as family and church obligations.
Malaitai got her first taste of competitive touch at Isitolo Leota, when their office competed in the Business House Tournament
But it wasn’t until she joined the Meitaki Club two years ago that she began to understand the game and its rules.
It was the first serious sport Malaitai played since she stopped playing netball at college, to focus on her schooling.
What began as a social activity to de-stress from work and stay fit has become much more than that.
She credits Meitaki, and coach Risty Fong for her success in the sport.
“She helped a lot in teaching us the skills and the moves.”
Malaitai and Siniva Williams, both debutants, are the two Meitaki representatives on the national team.
Coach Geoff Hooper is based in Australia, so the senior girls in the team run trainings in his absence.
Malaitai said all the girls contribute where they can.
“If there’s anything you see that’s wrong you can correct it.
“Everyone has a voice, but we all have to listen to what the coach says.”
She said Hooper has been really helpful, and that the team record as many trainings as possible to send to him for constant feedback.
“He’s on our group WhatsApp, sending us videos every day telling us what’s wrong and where to improve”.
“He’s been teaching us new stuff, things that I’ve never learned before.”
Malaitai said the biggest lesson she has taken away from touch is endurance.
“[Trainings are] really challenging, and there are times I feel I should just give up.”
After the training squad was announced, Malaitai missed the first few weeks of training.
“I went to the first training and I was struggling, it was really hard.
“I thought I’ll just keep on going, see where this will go.
“Months later I was named in the team and looking back, the sweat and struggle was all worth it.”
She hopes to encourage people who might be going through a lot or struggling right now, to get up and keep moving forward.
“There are so many challenges in this life, whether it’s work or family, relationships or marriage, I encourage you to get up and keep on going.”
“At times when you feel like all hope is gone, remember that Jesus loves you and He’s got you.”