Wearing the blue jersey for Samoa may have been a common dream for most Samoan boys.
But it’s a different story for Mike Stanley, who was born in New Zealand and raised in England.
The 26-year-old told the Samoa Observer that he is grateful and happy that he put up his hand to play for Manu Samoa.
Mike Stanley is joining the other 23 players for the Manu Samoa team prepping for the test match against Georgia.
This isn’t the first time he’s playing for Samoa, and for that, Stanley is thrilled to be back.
“It feels really good to be back,” he said. “I’m excited to be back and I am looking forward to working with the boys and obviously with our new coach.”
Reflecting back on his journey, Mike said he never thought he would be where he is now.
“Back then when I first started playing rugby in England, I didn’t really think that I would be here now playing for Manu Samoa.”
Stanley started his career in England with Saracens as an academy player and he’s been a professional rugby player since he was 16.
He then moved to New Zealand in 2013 and stayed with his uncle, Martin Stanley, who used to play for the All Blacks. From there, he joined Tana Umaga’s Counties Manukau Steelers.
Mike said moving to New Zealand taught him a lot of things. It did not only help develop his talent in Rugby, but also gave him the opportunity to learn more about his Samoan side.
“Because growing up in England, there weren’t many Samoans there as in New Zealand,” said Mike.
“I was 22 when I went down there so if it wasn’t going to happen then it was never going to happen," Mike said. “And I never regretted the decision I made.”
“I got to know more about the culture and my Samoan side when I moved to New Zealand, and even back then, I didn’t really think I would be playing for Manu Samoa one day. I didn’t know the pathways and what it takes to be able to play for the Manu Samoa as well.”
Mike said the call to play for the Manu Samoa back in 2014 was something he did not expect.
“At that time, I was shocked when I got the call from Alama to come and play for Samoa,” he said.
“I was hoping to spend at least two years there at Counties but then I couldn’t turn down the offer.”
And today, Mike is happy that he said yes.
“I had to sit down and talk to grandmother about it and she asked me to come and play for Samoa.”
He admitted that his road to where he is now was not smooth.
“There were a lot of challenges along the way with a few injuries along the way as well.”
However, he uttered that with the help and push from his family, he was able to get this far in his career.
“I have to say that family support has been a great help for me building up my career,” said Mike.
“My parents are my inspiration. The hard work and sacrifices they’ve done for me motivates me to become the best I could be and I want them to be proud of me.”
And the 26-year-old said he is hoping to make his family proud of him by giving his best when they play against Georgia on the 11 of June.
With just one week away from the test match, Mike believes that putting the audience first in the minds of the players can help them win the game.
“I think the main important thing we need to focus on and keep in mind is the audience. I mean it’s a different feeling when you watch the game on TV and when you watch it live. This time it’s going to be different because our people will be watching us live and that can push us to perform really well and win it for them.
“It’s time for us to get to know the boys on and off the field and bond together as a team before the game. Also we want to create something new here, a new look for our Manu Samoa team.
“I am very confident that we will win the game. It’s going to be tough but we just have to make sure we do everything right and concentrate on our trainings and put our everything into it so we can give back to our people.”