Remember Mahonri Schwalger?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The truth is simple enough. Hardly anyone wants to talk about the Manu Samoa. You see when a team becomes the butt of jokes on social media – and everywhere else the subject is mentioned after some pretty lame performances – it’s awfully difficult to get excited about anything to do with them. 

Which is precisely what has happened to the Manu Samoa. 

After being annihilated by France two weeks ago, anyone hoping for a quick fix against Georgia last weekend would have been bitterly disappointed. 

Don’t get us wrong. Yes we are disappointed they have not won yet. 

But it’s not just the fact they’ve lost all their games. It’s the way in which these games have been lost that has really incensed supporters all over the world.

You see against France, they just couldn’t tackle. They could well have called it the Manu Samoa touch rugby team. What we saw was a team of all muscle but no hearts so that in the end, they just let France waltz onto the try line at will. To be fair, France is a tough team and they are a quality side. No one in their right mind would have put money on the Manu Samoa upsetting them. But that’s not the point. What we expected at least was a passionate and gutsy display.  There was none of that.

Now you’d think that some stern words and a lot more time together would do the trick last week. Against Georgia, it was even more atrocious. 

Not only was their tackling considerably worse, they were woeful at set pieces so that the Lelos pushed back our scrums like it was nothing. Boy it was hard to watch, even tougher to stomach when we think about the proud history of this team at international rugby, especially in the department of tackling.

The question is what has happened to the Manu Samoa?

How did a team, which was once the pride of the nation, become a total embarrassment to watch? Where did it go wrong? And what can we do from here onwards to lift the performance of this team?

There are many answers. You have your views and we have ours. Without a doubt, all these views matter from issues with the coaching staff, players and the conditions of the players and so forth. All these points are valid – as long as they are presented constructively - and they will all contribute towards a better Manu Samoa no doubt.

From where we stand though, we believe that we can get all technical until we are blue in the face but if we don’t fix the foundational issues within Samoan rugby, this Manu Samoa team is not going anywhere in a hurry. The same goes for all the other teams - including the Manu Samoa Sevens. 

It’s true that the coaching staff and the players have a part to play and they have to be accountable. In this case, coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, captain David Lemi and the players have to take responsibility for their performances. It’s a must.

But we cannot just blame them. To do so would be foolish. 

You see winning teams and champion teams are often determined by policies and plans decided within boardrooms. In this case, the buck stops with the Samoa Rugby Union. 

Now yesterday, former Manu Samoa midfielder, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, hit the nail on its head with a post on Facebook.

“Manu Samoa is a sad case study of how some old Samoan men with fragile egos and jealous souls can destroy something that used to be a beautiful Samoan treasure,” he wrote.  “How Manu Samoa have descended from the greatest Samoan team ever, to barely average in the space of 5 years, is NOT the fault of players, NOT the fault of the current C.E.O, but the legacy of a gutless Board. 

“Cutting world class players to protect pathetic fragile egos has now led to no one really giving a s*** about Manu. It is sad. Very sad. 

“I still believe Pacific people are the most talented people in anything in the world, but let Manu Samoa teach us all a valuable lesson. Be wary. Aint nothing more destructive than our own jealousy of each other. Especially the fragile egos of men in power.”

Well said, Fuimaono-Sapolu!

We can never dispute the passion this man has for Samoa. He knows what he is talking about. He has been part of the system, a victim of the vicious cycle and has certainly come away with insights many of us would not have.

But Fuimaono-Sapolu is not the only one. 

Remember former captain Mahonri Schwalger? Isn’t this exactly what he warned against about the S.R.U back in 2012 before he was dumped from the team?  

Let us quickly revisit what he said. “Personally,” Schwalger wrote to the S.R.U Board, “I feel that in order for our team to go forward we need to have honest and committed people or we will never go anywhere. 

“We all need to sort this mess out not only for the present but mainly for the future generation.  I promise you, if this part is sorted out by getting the right people to do the job, Samoa will be unstoppable.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the administrators of the S.R.U should remember these words.

The point is it’s not just Manu Samoa. It’s about Samoan rugby, the processes, transparency, accountability and what needs to be done right. It could also be just a case of needing new ideas. 

What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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