Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has given his blessings to the Toa Samoa team, ahead of today’s historical test match at Apia Park.
Toa Samoa will take on Fiji Bati in the first rugby league test match to be played in Samoa, marking the 30th birthday of Rugby League Samoa (R.L.S).
Tuilaepa, who is the Patron of R.L.S, met with the players on Thursday where he urged them to give their all for their country.
Later during a function hosted by Australia to celebrate the event, Tuilaepa said rugby league has come a long way.
“Our hosting of the first ever international match between the Fiji Bati and Toa Samoa is indeed a historic milestone,” he said.
“As leader of the country and patron of the Samoa Rugby League, I can guarantee that this momentous event sets a platform for future internationals as well as provides the opportunity to showcase our excellent sporting facilities.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged the National Rugby League (N.R.L) for its support, allowing some of their big name players to front today’s clash.
“The sanctioning of the new eligibility rules will promote growth of the game and ensure competitiveness of all Pacific Island teams,” Tuilaepa said.
“Hopefully that will guarantee them the opportunity to play with Tier one nations such as Australia, New Zealand and England. Along with Rugby League, our government supports all other sports that offer an economic pathway for our talented youth.
“As well as a chance for them to focus on health, fitness and well being in order to prevent the onset of changing lifestyle diseases.”
Tuilaepa then congratulated Rugby League Samoa.
“We look forward to nothing less than excellence in the display of skills and talent from both Fiji Bati and Toa Samoa. I hope you will enjoy the celebrations and do find time to find the best kept secrets of the Pacific including hospitality of our communities.”
Australia’s High Commissioner in Samoa, Sue Langford, said the celebration in Apia this week is a “significant achievement.”
“Sport is a universal language,” she said.
“ The values of sport –competition, teamwork and fair play – all help build trust and friendships.
“Sport also plays a key role in bringing us together throughout the region. Rugby league is a particularly striking example where players of Samoan heritage and Fiji heritage are making a very significant contribution to National Rugby League professional clubs in Australasia.”
Today there are 74 players of Samoan descent in the N.R.L. In percentage terms this means 16 percent of players in the top grade are of Samoan descent. Fiji is not far behind with 55 players signing contracts this year.
“And I was delighted to see the Shark’s winning try in last week’s NRL grand final was scored by former Tongan International Andrew Fifita.
“Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of opening Samoa’s inaugural Open Girls Rugby League (tackle) Tournament. The speed and skills of the players were impressive and I look forward to seeing their match on Saturday and, over time, see more women take up the sport.
“Our nations – Samoa, Fiji, and Australia – all enjoy a close, enduring – and sometimes competitive – friendship through sport. I am sure this will flourish further on Saturday. I wish all teams the best for a friendly and competitive day on Saturday.”