It seems that in the cut throat world of Samoan rugby, you don’t even get three strikes before you are out, or in the case of Damian McGrath, three years of your contract.
Hot on the heels last week of the news from the Samoa Rugby Union that the position of Head Coach of the sevens was to be “re-advertised” – a euphemistic way of saying “terminated” or even less subtly, “fired”, comes the not unexpected follow up that McGrath has engaged the services of a lawyer.
There was the not insignificant matter he had signed a three-year contract meaning there were two plus years to go before it was up.
He may well have also been unhappy with the impression given that he, and he alone, was responsible for Manu Samoa missing out on their tilt at the inaugural sevens medals at the Olympics in Rio.
And the fact that our Pacific neighbor and rival Fiji took their first Olympic medal and the top one at that, was maybe salt to the wounds.
In a strange twist to the story, while the jobs of McGrath’s management team were also going to be “re-advertised”, there was the odd qualifier thrown into the S.R.U. press release which said they could reapply for their jobs.
What does all this mean?
To be fair, this is not the first time that a coach in the top echelons of Samoan rugby has lost his job before completing his contract.
Aveau Niko Palamo also suffered the same fate some years ago and also went down the same track as McGrath, consulting a lawyer.
Other coaches brought in from overseas have also had mixed success with our players over the years – All Black greats, Tuifa’asisina Bryan Williams and La’auli Michael Jones for example.
There were murmurs and suggestions at the time that overseas coaches didn’t really understand the psyche of Samoans and were therefore unable to get the best out of them.
That was rubbish, as all armchair critics could have pointed out and as Ben Ryan has proven with the Fiji Sevens team.
As had been the problem over the years, the lack of fitness showed itself time and again as our players embarrassingly ran out of steam in the second half or sometimes before that.
But back to McGrath.
When he was selected as coach, reportedly by the most astute rugby minds in the country, he was apparently the best man for the job from a large group of local and overseas applicants who were eager take over the team.
Certainly his C.V. and his coaching record suggested the correct choice had been made.
And if he is to blame for the losses, should he not be credited for the wins?
There was after all the heart-stopping win in the dying minutes of the final in Paris to take out a World Series leg, 29-26 against arch rivals, Fiji.
Perhaps the words of a successful New Zealand coach are worth noting.
He said that once the game begins – think of the game against Spain, every player on the field is the coach, because they each make decisions when they get the ball.
The coach is not on the field.