Let’s face it. Steve Jackson’s enthusiasm for his new role as the Head Coach of the Manu Samoa and his team’s chances of winning as they begin their end of year Northern Hemisphere tour is commendable.
He needs to. When a team’s fortunes have hit rock bottom, as the Manu Samoa has sitting 16th on the world rankings, you need some positivity. You need someone to believe in the mission and provide what’s needed to improve results.
So given the rocky history of the Manu Samoa in the recent past, the positive vibes from Jackson is a good start for the new man at the helm, who was brought in amidst a wave of controversy by an organization which seems to attract controversy with its every move.
Whatever the case might be, it’s undeniable that Coach Jackson has so far said all the right things as far as good public relations go.
Okay so he got off to a rough start when he selected an all overseas-based team for the Northern Hemisphere tour but he quickly adapted and changed his tone when he touched down in Samoa last month.
“It was just unfortunate that I had to name a team before I got the opportunity to see those players,” he said, before adding that more local Samoan players need to be exposed to high performance training regimes. Part of his job is to help them do that.
“I have already spoken to some Mitre10 cup teams back home about pushing those players into those environments and give them a taste of what it’s actually like to be involved in rugby week in and week out,” he said.
“The planning that goes behind it as an individual, your daily plan, your training every day, your nutrition, your mental skills programme…
“Hopefully, if I stay on long enough we can introduce that sort of stuff.”
Well said, Jackson!
But the operative phrase here is if he “stays on long enough.” The truth is that the Samoa Rugby Union has sacked enough coaches – 15s and Sevens - during the past few years that there will be more than enough to make up a Sevens team plus reserves.
That aside, Jackson also immediately adjusted and included a couple of local players into the squad touring the Northern Hemisphere tomorrow. Which was great.
Still, he has lofty goals. Using Melani Matavao who is playing in Otago to illustrate the pathway for local players, he said: “He came from the island last year, played the Mitre10 Cup this year, and his game has developed and that will only make him better because international rugby is a lot higher than even the Mitre10 Cup and a level above Super Rugby.
“We need as many of our players to be in a high performing environment as we can and it’s our job to create those opportunities for them.”
Again, wonderfully put. The question is; how can the Manu attract the likes of Matavao to play for Samoa while he is still hot? Far too many of those overseas players of similar ilk only talk about their passion to don the blue jersey when their used by dates are passed where they spend most of it chasing the black or gold dream. There is a lot to be said about this but now is perhaps not the time.
As this piece was being put together, the Manu Samoa is getting ready for its first game of the Northern Hemisphere tour against the U.S.A. tomorrow morning. Gone are days when the Manu Samoa only needed to show up to beat the Eagles. That was a long time ago. If anything, Manu Samoa will be the underdogs tomorrow.
Jackson knows this but again he is positive. Speaking to your newspaper from the team camp, he chooses to focus on his team and his players. He singled out Kane Leaupepe as one of the key figures at lock.
“I’m really pleased for him, he’s been a standout at training,” he said.
But there is more.
“Iakopo Petelo-Mapu – that kid’s been outstanding, just oozing enthusiasm. I’ve never seen anything like it, can’t wait to let him loose.”
Finally, he turned his attention to the reality that is Samoan rugby today, pointing out that the games against U.S.A. (ranked 15th) and Georgia (13th) present real opportunities to climb the ladder.
“We’re all mindful of where we are and where we should be. Its up to us to inspire the whole nation back home,” he said.
“I’m employed to get results, and I don’t like to lose. Winning breeds success, our job is to create an environment and culture that feeds that.”
Well said once again.
But a good start will be a win against the U.S.A. tomorrow morning, wouldn’t it? O outou mama na.
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!