Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi
Remarks at the launch of the Manu Samoa Old Boys Association
Firstly I’m delighted to have been asked to speak to you tonight to launch the Manu Samoa Old Boys Association and an update on the state of Samoa Rugby Union.
I want to acknowledge the presence and congratulate former Manu Samoa and All Black Laauli Michael Jones on receiving a knighthood. A well deserved honour and I’m sure I speak on behalf of our people and everyone here how proud we all are on your achievements.
It is also a fitting occasion to get together on the eve of our beloved Manu Samoa team taking on the World Champions the All Blacks tomorrow at Eden Park. We are excited like every Samoan around the world at relishing this great opportunity to play the All Blacks again.
I want to start by saying that despite enduring many difficult challenges over the years in my career I can tell you that almost none have been more challenging or satisfying and frustrating at the time than in my roles as Chairman of Samoa Rugby Union.
I know full well the weight of carrying the hopes and dreams of Samoan people all over the world for their national rugby teams. This is a Union which has faced many challenges around the board table and on the field. We are a Union with endless financial tension that is continuously in the public arena, and haunted by its past failures and at times we have copped unfair and scathing criticism.
In spite of these challenges and all too rare successes on the playing field Manu Samoa rugby continues to be the face of Samoa on the international stage. No other sport comes close to stirring the mood of the nation with the obsessive passion that our people have for our Manu Samoa Teams.
It never ceases to amaze or profoundly inspire me, that when our beloved Manu face their opponents on the rugby field our people regardless of where they are in the world forget the challenges and failures of the past and for the duration of that match they are completely uncompromising in their often very loud and very proud support of the Manu Samoa teams.
It would have been easy to throw in the towel when our job as administrators and governors became too hard. But how could possibly give up when our teams and our people stubbornly refuse to give up on their beloved Manu?
Across the world Manu Samoa rugby is recognized and celebrated by people all over the world who love our lack of arrogance our friendly and embracing customs our strong Christian values and most of all our great tolerance and resilience against much bigger, better resourced and better represented Unions.
We believe that anything is possible and we can take charge of our own destiny. And most of all, we derive an immense sense of satisfaction when we win when no one else expects us to. As a nation we have a deeply held conviction, that we can and must achieve our full potential on the international sporting stage.
During the All Blacks first visit to Samoa in 2015, SRU together with World Rugby went through significant changes to improve all areas of its business. Amongst the significant actions implemented was a restructure of the Organization SRU signed a Players Welfare MOU Agreement with PIPA (Pacific Islands Players Association). This was a huge milestone and achievement for SRU as the first Tier 2 nation to do so. The outcome document was widely received to the relief of the players and World Rugby as a huge stepping stone to a better and transparent relationship between SRU and our International Manu Samoa players. Underpinning the significant changes is demonstrating good governance which we hope will assist greatly in our efforts to gain World Rugby Council representation.
In the last six months, SRU engaged a renowned independent Consultancy Firm of experts to undertake an asset valuation of our brand and a commercial strategy Review. A costly exercise but crucial to the Unions future commercial viability. Recommendations are already at the forefront of our various engagements with potential partners and stakeholders. In addition to this revamping our brand over the next 12 months to earn additional revenue stream from apparel and product merchandising
Our plan is clear and the focus of the SRU is clear. The measure of our success on the field is directly related to the success of our support off the field however in the Corporate World we live in today, support in partnership is measured is mostly dictated by results on the field and it’s a challenge we want to overcome
Our Manu Samoa 15s in the last two years is at rebuilding phase, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia and his coaching team is very clear about their goal in blooding in younger players with the 2019 in mind. Our Under 20s is currently at the Junior World Cup Championship in Georgia.
Adding to that, is the hard work of a familiar name here in Sir Gordon Tietjens and his hard work with our national 7s team, we are also focusing on development of the women’s game in schools. These are ambitious programmes of work to help us achieve our goal for success and recognition on the international stage
SRU has recognized for some time the need to revamp our local development and talent identification programme at home and we have created a new, meaningful competition to ensure local players have a clear pathway to high honors.
This elite local Super 9 competition will kick off in July 2017. This will ensure the best players at home are playing in one competition consistently for minimum 12 weeks. Our vision at SRU is to see more home grown local talent with our unique Samoan flare back in our Manu Samoa team
I want to end by acknowledging the Board and all the Manu Samoa Old Boys Association – I congratulate you on formulating your Association and solidifying your gatherings as ex Manu Samoa players.
Many of you are household names and role models in our Samoan community and I hope you will continue to foster this relationship. You are now an important stakeholder and rightly deserved to be heard and contribute to our development. I trust that your support is not limited to shared resources and expertise but engaged in soliciting financial assistance through your network of contacts. I wish your Association every success and be true to your values of Tautua – Serving the past, the present and the future players of Samoa
I thank you also for your contribution in the last few weeks to our Manu Samoa community engagement programme here in Auckland
As for the Match I trust you will take the time to enjoy the match in much the same way as I suspect the world will enjoy watching our beloved Manu Samoa play
I’m always optimistic that Manu Samoa on rare occasions, and I mean rare occasion capable of producing the unthinkable the rest I will be happy to leave to the two teams on the field
Thank you again Soifua ma ia Manuia.