Team on a mission
The Manu Samoa Sevens is on a mission.
With the Monaco repechage Olympic Qualifiers their last chance to secure a spot in the Olympics, coach Damian McGrath, captain Tole’afoa Falemiga Selesele and the rest of the squad know what they have to do.
And there are no places for second, third or any other place. It’s a matter of the winner takes all.
Before the team left for Brisbane for a week-long camp, the players team met with sponsors Bluesky Samoa at their headquarters on Friday.
There, Bluesky Country Manager, Alex Abraham, met with the team coaches and players where he presented $1,000 tala to each of them for their victory at the Paris leg of the World Sevens Series.
Although the excitement is high, McGrath admits that the team has run into a few bumps in terms of preparations.
“Preparations haven’t been perfect because of the delay in getting back to Apia from London,” he said.
“It was such a difficult journey and the players were very tired so we had to give them a certain amount of time off so really we had a couple of days of good training here.
“As you may expect, with the Olympic spot on the line we will be playing with very high motivation so everyone has been working very hard.
“We’re taking 14 players to Brisbane and we leave tomorrow morning; we will be having a really good few days there before we fly out to Europe, everyone is 100% and ready to go.”
Due to the recent World Sevens series results, Samoa will be heading into the repechage as the top seed and according to Coach McGrath; they will be the team to beat.
“On paper we are the favorites because we are the high seated team because the results have made it so,” he said.
“The difficult assets to the play this tournament as opposed to all the other tournaments is we are going in as favorites.
“In the World Series legs we have been the underdogs and we have fought through but this time we will be shot out by the other teams and everyone will be raising their game against us.
“There’s a different mindset needed, we need to be aware of that and ready to go, that’s the thing that we will be expecting; everyone will try to topple Samoa.”
With all the teams bringing their A game to Monaco, Coach McGrath has named a few teams who are potential threats to us getting that last Olympic spot.
“You will think that Canada and Russia will be our immediate contenders,” he said.
“But I would imagine that Tonga would also be a threat with them bringing some senior players to their side.
“Canada and Russia are big teams who rely on brute force as opposed to a more skillful team; I would imagine that if everything goes to form that they will be our main threats.”
The boys are ready and they have learnt all they could to make them a team to be reckoned with, the only thing left on Coach McGraths agenda is polishing their skills.
“We are at the end of the Sevens season and there’s very little ‘new’ that we can add into our schedule to make things better,” he said.
“We have been just polishing what we’ve already learnt and that includes our fitness; we have given them some hard running sessions but later on we will be working a lot on our game plan and skills for the Monaco tournament.
“The boys are very motivated, we are very lucky to have certain players on our squad who are natural leaders and I always tell them that it’s their team, not my team.
“They are driving themselves, they are setting their own standards and they tick that board and are very hard on each of them.
“That’s really good because peer pressure is a much better motivator than having a teacher or the leader up in front banging a big stick.
“The 12 boys who went to London and Paris will be going to the repechage,
“I will be adding Phoenix and Talea; they will be joining us with our training in Brisbane and after that I will be selecting my 12 to go through to Europe.
“It will be very hard to pick 12 from those 14 players because they have all been training so well but I am sure that whoever we choose will give us a good show.”
McGrath humbly requests Samoa to continue backing them up as they do all they can to make everyone proud.
“Everything we have done this year has been a building up towards these two weeks,” he said.
“Fairly ahead we will raise all the good things we have done, the players want to succeed because they know it could be a historical moment for the country so I just hope that the great support you have all been showing us will continue to stay with us.
“Win or lose just know that the boys have given it all they’ve got.
“To be successful will be the culmination of a dream for all of us.
“This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for both the management and the team itself, right now it’s more nerves than excitement but as we start playing we will be excited with what we will be able to do.
“I would like to thank everyone who has stayed positive.
“Those who have been recognizing that we have been a team in transition, just thank you all for your support.”
Tournament favorite, Samoa heads up Pool A with Zimbabwe, Tonga and Ireland. Pool C features Russia, Chile, Morocco and Tunisia while Pool D consists of Hong Kong, Spain, Mexico and South Korea.