Veteran touch player defies coach’s expectations to make World Cup squad
Touch player Filoi Eneliko is after one last Pacific Games gold medal in what could be the final year of her international touch career.
The veteran is hoping to make the open women’s squad for next year’s Games, which would be her fifth.
Eneliko was recently named in the squad for April-May’s Touch World Cup in Malaysia, which she said will be the perfect rehearsal.
“The World Cup is another big achievement for me, and also to be selected for the Pacific Games will tick one off my bucket list.
“It’s good to go and see how other teams play.”
It will be the second World Cup campaign for Eneliko, who has won gold at the Pacific Games for touch in 2007, 2009 and 2015.
But coach Geoff Hooper told her before the December trials for there was no chance she’d be selected.
He came to watch the National Elite Tournament in October, where Eneliko was struggling with an injury and performing numerous roles for the Vaea Womens and Men’s team.
She admitted those factors affected her performance.
“After the first day he came and said to me ‘you’re not a middle, and you’re not on the list for the World Cup’,” she said.
Eneliko never thought that could be the end of her career – her sole focus was proving Hooper wrong.
“I don’t know what changed his mind exactly, but I think it was training hard.”
She wanted to make the team not for her leadership and mentoring qualities as a senior player, but because she could still play.
“I can still run, I can still catch up with the younger players.”
The World Cup squad has a fresh look to it, with 11 of the 16 players yet to play for Samoa.
Having played Touch internationally since 2003, Eneliko is on the other end of the spectrum.
With coach Hooper being based in Australia, she and fellow senior players Gabrielle Apelu, Lerissa Fong, Michael Wulf and Deejay Fong took the responsibility of running trainings.
“The coach has been really good, giving us a programme for every day.
“He is positive, honest, energetic and brings fresh ideas and style for the game of touch in Samoa”
Coaching and development comes naturally to Eneliko, who has previously been involved in coaching the Manu Sina rugby 7s and 15s sides, as well as club-level soccer.
She also works at the Samoa Rugby Union in development for young boys and girls.
Eneliko is excited about the young group coming into the side, and said it’s good for the sport.
“It’s good to see some new faces in touch, because it’s been the same people every year.
“To all my fellow sisters who were not named for the World Cup squad, it’s physically and mentally draining, keep motivated to train for the Pacific Games touch team as it is possible to achieve.”
She is coach/captain of the No Idea Touch Rugby club, which recruited three players to touch only last year who are now in the national team.
“I brought them in to play for No Idea and taught them the basics fundamental skills of touch.
Eneliko said they have come a long way in such little time.
She said the World Cup will be a massive experience where it will challenge their touch game awareness as a team and as an individual.
“For most of the young ones it’s their first time travelling overseas.
“I told some of the young players we’re not just going there to make up the numbers, but to challenge other touch teams in the world cup .”
She is urging them to take notebooks, and write things down after every game or training.
“Bring something back to the sport.”