More than just a game

A common perception among the masses is sports is just a game, one that is played and enjoyed outdoors; and at primary school level, is a great way not to be stuck in the classroom

The N.R.L. team in Samoa is proving to be a different kettle of fish. They are tasked with engaging grassroots level and increasing female participation and inclusiveness for all.

They are in schools for at least eight of the 10 weeks. They must deliver up to 32 programmes which are inclusive of:

• League for Life, Health and Wellbeing, Tackle Bullying, Rugby League Reads and one that has been introduced specifically for Samoa, Short Story Writing -  ‘O Se Tala Pu’upu’u’ where the children are required to write about their experiences with N.R.L. in the form of a short story.

N.R.L. in Samoa’s programmes have been endorsed by the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture and adapted to suit not only the Australian and New Zealand curriculum but also the Samoan one.


So what is the purpose of all this?

Gabrielle Apelu the only female of the group who also happens to be the C.E.O. of N.R.L. Samoa, said it’s about providing children with a positive experience.

 “We are here to provide the kids with a positive experience and a broader approach for sports that doesn’t end when the final whistle blows. Our programme recognises that sports is more than just games,” she said. 

“To succeed in sports you must have the same skills you need to succeed in the classroom. You must be able to communicate in a productive way with your team mates/classmates, you must understand to perform better than everyone, you need to eat what is good for your mind and your body. The capacity to understand information and apply it correlates hugely from in the classroom to on the field.”

The N.R.L. team in Samoa is made up of passionate sports people and now administrators. Maika Felise is the Rugby League 9’s National Coach. Leia Saofaiga and Tanielu Pasene are both dual national representatives for the sports of Rugby League and Rugby Union. Joe Kelemete is a former player for Rugby League. Gabrielle Apelu is a dual national representative for the sports of Rugby Union and a 3 x gold medallist for Touch Rugby.

 “Kids face a lot of issues in the school and our Tackle Bullying programme addresses how to recognise when we intentionally or unintentionally hurt another person and what we can do to be nicer to people for a happier community,” said Maika.

“We get really interactive and also relay our experiences of when we were bullied or when we were the bullies and it’s a real eye-opener for the kids. They get quite surprised by things that may seem normal that actually have a negative effect on another person,” Leia agrees.

Joe Kelemete is the full time Savaii development officer and running ‘League for Life’ which is a four week programme which is proving to be at times challenging. “I’m the only one in the big island and the kids love rugby league! We can only handle 40 kids at a time and most of the time I have over a 100 at a school and it can get chaotic.”

Literacy has been an issue here in Samoa with Literacy Week introduced a few years ago.  Tanielu quietly inputs, “With our ‘Rugby League Reads’ we offer another go at practicing their reading in an enjoyable magazine format. The kids love that, it’s in a more interactive layout.”

Leia says, “Our Short Story Writing has been specifically introduced for Samoa, so our kids can get ample opportunities to practice their writing, spelling and grammar. We currently have 15 schools in our Short Story Writing and we’ve formed up a competition amongst them with a winner from each school.”

What does the team think about the girls being involved with their programme?

“We love it. The girls tend to listen more than the boys and they have a great learning effect on them. The girls encourage more productive learning as a group and how to work together as a team and at the end of the sessions, the girls will have learnt more skills than the boys. It provides some really entertaining competition amongst them,” Maika observed.

And what does inclusiveness for all mean?

“Inclusiveness means everyone. We are the first program to be in an actual school with disabilities. We want to give every child a positive experience with sports and have them know that we are all the same and deserve the same opportunities,”Joe explained

Lagi Natanielu, the Principal of Loto Taumafai Society said,” We are truly blessed to be part of promoting N.R.L. and particularly under the umbrella of Inclusive Education.  Our organisation is very passionate that children with disabilities be given the same opportunities as students in mainstream school. The N.R.L. programme is the first initiative of this nature our school has hosted, thus the commitment and dedication is valued by Loto Taumafai Society as a whole and more specifically our students who participate.”

“We have partnered up with Miss Samoa 2015-2016 Ariana Taufao to be an ambassador for our programme in promoting Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and Inclusiveness for all. The kids love seeing her as evidenced by many short stories, they had only ever seen her on TV but never in real life,” said Gabrielle. 

For the start of the school term 1 2016, the NRL team has concentrated on the Lefaga and Safata Districts to begin the year. They are currently delivering their programmes in these schools: Tafitoala Primary School, Mulivai Primary School, Sataoa Primary School, Lotofaga Primary School, Fusi Primary School, Safaatoa Primary School, Vaiee Primary School, Salamumu Primary School, Aleisa Primary School, MatautuPriamary School, Savaia Primary School, Faleseela Primary School, Salelologa Primary School, Salelavalu Primary School, Loto Taumafai School

At the end of the day, if the N.R.L. experience enriches our young people’s lives, then we feel that is a job welldone.

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