You either win or you learn.
This is a saying that summarises Black Ferns Captain, Fiao’o Faamausili’s approach to her rugby career and life in general.
The 36-year-old Auckland Police detective is in Samoa to promote the development of quick rip rugby. She sat down with the Samoa Observer to talk about what brought her out of her short retirement.
During the interview, she also paid homage to the women in rugby who paved the way for the opportunities that are now available to females in a mostly male dominated sport.
Last year in August, the Black Ferns captain announced her retirement after 52 tests and leading the team to winning the World Cup.
What seemed like the ultimate way to bow out of an impressive career was cut short when Faamausili came to play in the Marist Sevens tournament in Samoa early this year.
Initially, Faamausili and former All Black Rodney So’oialo were scheduled to coincide their Quick rip rugby campaign with the Samoa Marist 7s in February.
It was around the same time Tropical Cyclone Gita hit our shores and for safety reasons, New Zealand Rugby (N.Z.R.) cancelled their travel plans.
“What really turned it around for me was when I came back here and played the 7s and I hadn’t played rugby since I played in the World Cup. So what happened was someone heard that I was supposed to come here for quick rip but they heard that I was coming here to play.
“It went up on social media that I was playing, which wasn’t the case but because people in Samoa made it known that they were going to come watch, I didn’t want to disappoint them by not playing.”
Not wanting to let anyone down, Fa’amausili disregarded T.C. Gita warnings and paid her own way to Samoa to participate in the Sevens tournament.
“I ended up paying my way to come anyway because it was already out there on social media and my family here was feeling excited that I was coming to play.
“I worked it around my job, finished my shift at work and flew out the next morning, played for two days here in Samoa and flew back in time for my Monday shift at work,” she laughed.
“So it was a quick trip, but you know I’ve never played on Samoan soil before and when I did, I realised I was missing something and that I could still play.”
Playing in Samoa for the first time re-energised the Silver Ferns Captain because since then she is back into training mode and working her way to making the team again in time for the August tests and the end of year tour to Chicago.
This year, N.Z.R. took big steps toward fair pay and play for the women in rugby ensuring that professional women rugby players were contracted and paid a salary as part of an historic agreement between the players association and N.Z.R.
Fa’amausili reflects back on her rugby career and marvels at the work and sacrifice past women players in N.Z.R. have done to pave the way for the next generation of female rugby players.
“Contracts have come up this year, that’s totally new to me because we’ve always done rugby with a full time job and going to trainings. The thing that women are known for is that we are good at multitasking and time management. But yes, it’s definitely been a struggle.”
She tells us of the hurdles she herself went through in order to play a sport that she loves.
“I remember we played on Sundays back in the day because the men’s teams got priority on days. We got oversized jerseys and we would be allocated a small patch of the field compared to the guys and we would get the left over gear.”
But women in rugby are a different breed, preferring to stay in their lane and letting their achievements do the talking.
“Being a woman playing in a men’s sport was really difficult but we never complained,” she said.
“We just got out there and took what we got and I think for those players back in the day that did that for us and paved the way for women, that’s why we are at this stage now.
“We proved that we can play rugby on the field and we proved our discipline with our extra trainings and worked around the men’s schedules, we just did our work and those girls who led the way, literally paved the way for the girls who are getting contracts now. We acknowledge the past players because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are today, it could have happened sooner but we did it our way.”
Asked whether she would have played for Samoa and the Samoan born who hails from the villages of Faleula, Aleisa and Fogapoa said if circumstances were different, she would have played for her home country.
“If I had the chance and if I hadn’t been picked up early by the Black Ferns then yes, I would have definitely played for Samoa but I got snatched up quite early when I was 19 with the Black Ferns and with that ruling, once you play for the Black Ferns, you can’t play for anyone else.
“But there are other opportunities, I come back here as often as I can and train here in Samoa, I love my time here training. I run up to Mount Vaea and run the streets.”
Knowing that there are challenges at any grassroots level particularly with equal opportunity, Fa’amausili says being pro-active is crucial to a winning mindset and to never let failures define you.
“Just do your extras. Don’t always expect that training is a certain time you can always train outside of it. There’s no right time to train, you just got to keep active and train and keep in mind that saying you never lose because you either win or you learn.
“Don’t always get down on yourself because you didn’t actually get something but take what you learnt from it and eventually you will get there and be on top. Keep active for kids and respect your parents, respect your elders and be humble and you’ll never lose. You either win or you learn.”