Family helps touch player’s dream come true

By Thomas Airey ,

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Emele Elizabeth Paletasala in national team training.

Emele Elizabeth Paletasala in national team training. (Photo: Samoa Touch Rugby Incorporated)

The youngest member of the national women’s open touch team, Emele Elizabeth Paletasala (19), gave her family all the credit for her sporting success.

Paletasala, of Vaitele-uta, was named by coach Geoff Hooper in his squad for the World Cup in Malaysia in May.

“It was a dream come true,” Emele said.

She only started playing touch in February 2017, after older brother Joseph Saito Paletasala (23) roped her in to a one-day tournament to play with him for No Idea Touch Club’s mixed team.

With Emele being named player of the tournament that day, it was instantly clear she had a natural feel for the game.

“I didn’t go to to trainings for it either, so it was surprising,” she said. 

“I think he made a good choice bringing me in.”

Joseph Saito is hopeful of making the men’s touch World Cup to be named this month.

Emele said he is a real role model for her, and they are both multi-talented athletes.

“We also play soccer and netball with the same club.”

They have also both represented Samoa in athletics.

Emele won silver and bronze medals in 4x200 metres and 4x100 metres relays at the 2015 Youth Commonwealth Games in Apia.

She said when she gave athletics up, her brother said she should play touch.

At No Idea, Emele  plays with veteran fellow national team member Filoi Eneliko.

“Filoi’s a good teacher, she’s the one who taught me the values and rules of the game,” she said

Emele said while she still plays soccer, netball and tag rugby, touch is especially fun and interesting.

Joseph Saito Paletasala.
Joseph Saito Paletasala.

“I like touch because of the environment, the people there and the way they socialise with each other.

“I made a choice this year that I’d focus on touch only, with the World Cup.”

Emele will be looking to finish her Bachelor of Commerce this year as well.

“So it’s gonna be very hard for me, trying to balance the schoolwork and training.”

Emele said she should be able to work the two around each other, as the team are training just three days a week before coach Hooper returns for a training camp just prior to the World Cup.

Until then she will be leaning on the support of her family, including her ‘first coach’ in Joseph Saito.

“My brother is always there to train me, and make sure that I finish the programme that coach sent.

“My other older brother and his wife support me by paying for food, taxi or bus fares to go to  trainings, or dropping me off and picking me up after trainings.

When they are busy, Emele’s mother helps out with transport, and also provides her with boots and other equipment needed for touch.

“And my little sister, she’s the number one adviser.”

Emele said her sister also covers her chores whenever she has trainings.

But she said the most important supporter is her father, who never misses a game.

“He will tell me what to do and what I need to correct.”

Emele said she wouldn’t have made the national team without her family and supporters and their prayers.

“Especially my family for always being there during my sports career, and giving me advice.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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