The Rugby Academy of Samoa (R.A.S) celebrated a first in Savai’i yesterday.
Driven by the desire to share the knowledge and skills to develop grassroots rugby in Samoa, the programme launched an Academy at Sale'aula as part of a drive to unearth the great rugby talent on the big island.
The driving force behind the programme and founder of R.A.S, Mase Mahonri Schwalger, said it has been one of their dreams, to have a Rugby Academy in Savai’i.
But it’s not just Savai’i. He is also looking at having branches of their Academy in all four corners of Samoa.
“We want to offer the same opportunity we give to the kids in Upolu to learn about rugby to the children in Savai’i as well,” Mase said.
“This will enable them to up their skills in rugby and especially trying to work on their attitude and work on their mindset and the different skills in rugby that can also be applied in life.
“We understand that a lot of children and parents have been wanting to be part of our academy but they cannot afford to come all the way to Upolu. So we’ve been working really hard towards achieving our goal, to have an academy here in Savaii for our children here in the island.
“And today, we are so pleased and blessed to have the community from the village of Sale’aula to help us make this possible.”
“Sale’aula is my village,” said Mase. “And when I thought of having an academy here in Savai’i, I needed people that I can trust and are willing to help us develop the talents of our young kids and to help them achieve their goals.
“And as you can the facility is really fitting for an academy. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to have it here.”
Close to a hundred children gathered with their parents from all around Savai’i joining the village of Sale’aula to rejoice in the new beginning.
The launch started with a small service conducted by Reverend Tonu Mau’afu of the Congregational Christian Church in Iva Savaii.
It was followed by a very small formality where a high chief from Sale’aula, Levaopolo Fa’aso’otauloa thanked the team from R.A.S for choosing Sale’aula as the center of their academy in Savaii.
Levaopolo went on to say that the new branch of R.A.S in Savaii is a great platform for the children in Savaii to learn about rugby and to develop their skills.
“Today’s event is important mainly because it is for our children,” said Levaopolo. “Not only for our village but also for the children of Savaii to develop their talents and skills in rugby.
“We are extremely happy that you have chosen our village to host such an important programme. We didn’t think that they would select our village, but I am grateful to those who are in charge of this programme for choosing our village to be the center of the Rugby Academy in Savaii.”
Reverend Tonu Mau’afu travelled all the way from Iva with 24 boys wanting to be part of the programme. Asked about why he was interested in the programme, he said he believes the programme is “real.”
“I say real (because) after so many years of rugby here in Samoa, and to be exact, here in Savaii, nothing like this has happened, especially with the grassroots level,” said Reverend Tonu.
“I don’t about the other programmes from the Samoa Rugby Union, but the Rugby Academy of Samoa’s programme today is real. This is what we need, and that’s why I came all the way from Iva for this programme, because this is so important for the young generation.”
Reverend Tonu said he heard about the launch of the new academy in Savaii on the radio and he immediately thought of taking the boys from his Sunday school to Sale’aula to learn about rugby.
“This was something that I always dreamed of, for the rugby academy of Samoa to come to Savaii and have another branch here in Savai’i. What’s good for Upolu is always good for Savaii. Although that is a political phrase, but I also think that it is right. And that’s why I have always wanted to have this kind of programme here in Savaii as well.”
He is hoping for more programmes such as this to develop rugby in Savai’i.
“I also hope that Mahonri and his team will go to the different schools. But I guess this is also a good strategy to not only focus on schools, but instead open it to the public and anyone who wants to learn how to play rugby professionally.”
Mimita Pualoa, an eleven year old from Sale’aula was excited to learn about rugby for the first time in his life.
“I am here because I want to learn about rugby and I want to play for Manu Samoa in the future. I want to be a rugby player so that I can have a better future.
“We always play rugby at school, but we never learned about the skills and techniques for the game. So this will be the first time for us to learn about how to play rugby professionally.
“I am happy to be part of this programme.”
The rugby academy in Savaii is now under the supervision of Fa’aso’otauloa Romney Key.
Fa’aso’otauloa said they will be having training every Saturday for all the children who are interested to learn about rugby.
R.A.S has also trained some people to help Fa’aso’otauloa out with the academy in Savaii, and there will be also regular visits from the management and head coaches of R.A.S to Savaii.