Tough road ahead for Fuimaono

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

At long last. The appointment of Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua as the Head Coach of the Manu Samoa has been confirmed. The confirmation from the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, though came a bit late.

It was a bit of an anticlimax since the news had been circulating a couple of weeks before it was finally announced.

In any case, Fuimaono really needs no introduction, especially to the people of this country. Those who recall the glory days of the Manu Samoa Sevens when we dominated the world stage know that Fuimaono was the man who started it all. 

It goes without saying that his coaching pedigree is quite impressive, especially in the abbreviated code of the sport. As a Manu Samoa 15s coach, his biggest achievement would have to be the lone victory over Australia in the build up to the Rugby World Cup of 2007. 

But then that was a while ago. Whether Fuimaono can get back to his best and do what we hope he can deliver is another question. Only time will tell. 

The problem for Fuimaono is that time is not on his side and he is expected to deliver a miracle from an extremely ugly situation Samoan rugby has found itself in. The fallout from Manu Samoa’s last gathering in Samoa and the resignation of Namulauulu Alama Ieremia is still a very fresh wound and it would take all of Fuimaono’s experience to try and bring this team together.

Keep in mind that the Northern Hemisphere test is only a month away and then the all-important last chance to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. While some people say that it should be easy for Samoa to win, we beg to differ.

We might be looking at teams like Spain and Russia but they are quality teams who can easily beat us. Given the way Manu Samoa has been performing, it’s probably fair to say we will be heading into the tournament as the underdogs.

And that will make Fuimaono’s job a lot more difficult.

Is he the right person for the job? 

We all have our thoughts but at this stage that’s not important. What’s important is for the Manu Samoa to start winning again. We have to.

The Manu Samoa’s current predicament is disappointing. We get that. Besides it’s not as if the Union had just found out last year that there was a Rugby World Cup tournament to prepare for. There are serious questions that need to be asked about what led us down this path.

You see it’s easy to make the coach the scapegoat. Samoan rugby has been doing this for years and we’ve only gone backwards. Sack the coach, sack the captain, sack whoever doesn’t sing their tune. This is truly bizarre.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to sing a different tune. 

After all, we live in an era of professional sport where a team’s success takes far more than the effort of a group of athletes and a coach. Decisions made in the boardroom are reflected in the success on the field. That’s the reality. Which means if the team is failing on the field, we’ve got to do better than just sacking the coach. 

In reappointing Fuimaono, the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is fairly optimistic.

 “We need a strong and vocal coach whom the players will obey his instructions and there is no better person than Fuimaono to take this job,” he said. 

“Fuimaono’s achievements in the past with the Sevens is no secret. He was even the Head Coach at the time we beat Australia’s best team. 

 “The team needs someone who can revive the aggressiveness of the players while on the field, we need someone who doesn’t have to spell out to the boys what needs to be done on the field.” 

The Prime Minister went on to confirm there were several overseas-based coaches shortlisted. 

“However the problem with that is they want to coach here but continue to live off island. They wanted to come and go…. also it’s questionable whether our players would understand their language and whether the players would heed their instructions. 

“These are some of the issues the Committee considered.”

Finally, Tuilaepa called on the public to support Fuimaono. That shouldn’t be too hard to find in Samoa where Fuimaono cuts a very popular figure.

The real question for the Samoa Rugby Union is whether the players – especially the key players we need will support Fuimaono and give him the respect his past achievements demand. 

Only time will tell.

We do pray there will be a fairytale ending to all this.

Have a pleasant weekend Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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