Rugby League Samoa’s Toa

By Vatapuia Maiava ,

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Matt Parish.  (Photo: Getty Images)

Matt Parish. (Photo: Getty Images)

Not many know the responsibility of a coach; they hold the decisive power over their team, every decision is always a critical one, they hold all the responsibility when the team does not perform and they are blamed for individual player’s mistakes.

They are the forefront of verbal abuse and yet at the end of the day they are just human; they still have to go home to their family and act as if everything’s alright.

Being a head coach is no easy task but for Toa Samoa head coach Matt Parish, the love of his job greatly outweighs all that goes against him and his squad.

Nominated for ‘Sports Coach of the Year’ award for the S.A.S.N.O.C’s sports award, the proud father of three is ready with a life-time of experience in League rugby.

With all other contestants, we must ask that one question; ‘why does Matt deserve the award?’

After taking up the head coach role for Toa Samoa in August 2013 right before the World Cup, Matt wasted no time in achieving great feats with his new squad.

Here are just a few of his achievements:

• He coached his team through the world cup where they came in 5th despite their rank being 11th in the world. The team did a marvelous performance against New Zealand exceeding all expectation.

• In May 2014 Matt and his squad beat Fiji to qualify for a historic first appearance in the four nations against 3 of the top rugby league nations in the world and again the team exceeded expectations.

• The team attained 4th place rank in world which was maintained after beating Tonga in the Pacific test 2015.

So it is safe to say that Matt truly does deserve the nomination, bringing his team from a measly 11th place rank right up to 4th place.

But for Matt, this is all for the love of League rugby.

“I played Rugby Union at school and represented Australia’s under-21 before switching and playing Rugby League for Balmain when I turned 21,” he said during an email interview with Samoa Observer.

“I have been coaching Rugby League since I was 28 and I have worked with NRL Clubs North Queensland Cowboys, Manly and Parramatta.

“I have also worked with the NSW Origin Team for the last 4 seasons working as an Assistant Coach to Laurie Daley; I enjoy Coaching and working with the added benefit of meeting some amazing people.”

The whole point of the sports award is to give Samoa’s sports people recognition and to make them feel special; the awards will act as an incentive for them to continue their hard work and according to Matt’s response to his nomination, it is doing just that.

“It is a great honour and privilege to be recognized as the Coach of Rugby League Samoa (R.L.S) and this nomination is the highlight of my Coaching career,” he said.

“I am very proud to be Head Coach of Samoa and I am very proud of the players I coach and the people I work with; there are so many great men who have worked very hard for a number of years, they all have been an amazing help to me and have also supported my goals 100% and for that I am very grateful.

“President Tagaloa Faafouina Su’a has been the rock that R.L.S has been built on for many years and he has been unbelievable with his help and support and I consider him to be one of my great friends.

“Fritz Tuiavii Savaiinaea and Lauaki Fred Tuilagi have also been massive supporters and together we have all faced many challenges but we have all worked very hard to make R.L.S the force it is in Rugby League today and I am happy for all the effort.”

After the 3 years Matt has been with R.L.S he developed a big heart for Samoa.

“I love the Samoan people, I love the Samoan Culture; the people I work with and the players I Coach are special people and together we are a great team,” he said.

“Our Camps are special and it gives me great satisfaction when players that have been in our camps say ‘this is the best camp or game I have been involved with’.

“We have 3 main Words that sum up what playing for Samoa means and we use them in all our Camps, HONESTY, RESPECT and FAMILY.”

According to Matt there is a real sense of honor and respect when it comes to R.L.S.

“When players like our captain Frank Pritchard says it was a pleasure and honour to represent Samoa and that he is proud of where he comes from as well as learning a lot about his heritage and culture reassures me that we are on the right path.

”We now have many Samoan players around the World putting their hand up to play for Samoa which is pleasing.”

When asked for a message for future Coaches, Matt replied.

“Keep working hard and always leave room to learn; as a Coach you need to be able to teach and improve your players not as footballers but as people,” he said.

“It is important for players to learn and enjoy; Samoan Coaches (like players) need to chase their dreams.”

Matt assures the public that the team will continue to make their country proud no matter what.

“Samoans in sport around the world punch well above their Weight and achieve some incredible results given the small islands they come from,” he said.

“R.L.S is one of those sports that have achieved a lot in a short time but we want to be better, we are moving forward and our Goal is to create history and improve on our 4th placed ranking in the World.”  

© Samoa Observer 2016

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