To become a professional rugby player is a dream come true for any young man growing up in Samoa. Unfortunately for most, it will be a dream that continues to be just that.
If sport is your passion there are still many opportunities to work within the field you love.
Faavae Neru of Tufutafoe, had aspirations of becoming a professional rugby player while attending Maluafou College. He has instead succeeded in pursuing refereeing as a career, and has been recommended to World Rugby for officiating both 7’s and 15’s on the international stage.
Neru has recently returned from the U20’s World Trophy, where he was referee for two matches and assistant referee for three.
“The level of refereeing was a huge step up for me. It was great chance for me to gain experience and develop as a referee. The games were faster and required me to discipline teams across different cultures. It can be difficult at times but I enjoy the challenge.”
Feevae Neru wasn’t always a referee. In fact he is only in his fifth year of officiating. In 2007 he was employed as a Geography and P.E teacher at Leulumoega Fou College. Here Neru volunteered as a rugby coach and was often asked to referee many secondary school matches. One thing led to another and refereeing soon became a more enjoyable job than coaching. It didn’t take the SRU development team long to realize his potential, and he was taken under the wing of international referee Tui Komiti.
“Faavae is a fast learner and the complete package as far as a referee is concerned. His understanding of the game and interpretation of the law, as well as his discipline, makes him easy to coach. He has the potential to go a long way.”
In July 2015 he was match referee for the PNG Pacific Games, and was then sent to the Stellenbosch Academy of Sports in South Africa to participate in the talent optimization program run by World Rugby. Here Neru honed his skills and knowledge of the game, and was appointed as a referee for the Youth Commonwealth Games in 2015, as well as the Pacific Challenge recently held in Fiji where he was referee for 3 matches. Neru appreciates the opportunities he has been given and is gaining knowledge at every turn.
“The SRU development team are doing a great job. There are lots of opportunities for younger people coming through to take up roles on the international stage as referees or match officials. For me rugby is not only about who will win and lose, but about building relationships between people.”
Father of 3, Neru has spent the past two years as a teacher at Church College of Pesega, and is thankful for the support of Principal Brother and his colleges. Neru would ideally like to become an International 7’s referee but understands there is a lot of hard work he will have to do to reach this level.
“It is always hard to leave my family when I go away. I want to make this sacrifice to show my kids the opportunities available to them. To be able to experience different places and different cultures through your job is something that is very special. I want to make them proud and I want to make Samoa proud too.”
Neru’s next appointment will be as touch judge for the upcoming Tonga vs. Georgia international test match.