A heartbroken coach
Manu Samoa Sevens coach, Damian McGrath, has spoken out about the devastating defeat against Spain, which cost his team a spot in the Rio Olympics at Monaco last weekend.
And he has not hidden the fact he is heartbroken for the people of Samoa who had supported the team, praying they would win.
“When we lost this match, we clearly have to admit that the best team won on that day,” he said.
“But it simply was heart breaking to loose during these last seconds of the game, but we didn’t play as well as we could have and unfortunately, we missed out.”
The coach from England, who took over the position last year, had to process the disappointment, which hit the team and its staff even more heavily after the victory at the Rugby 7s in Paris just a few weeks ago.
“We played very well in Paris and all the year had been built towards this qualification for the Olympic Games in Brazil. We had the same squad, with only a limited number of players, training so well leading up to the event and we seemed to be almost there. I was very confident about that. It really, really was downhearted and disappointing to us, but that’s sport.”
As one of the reasons for this struggle the team had to face in the qualification, McGrath pointed out that “the teams outside the world series have become really strong.
“People started investing lots of money in their teams […] and we were taken aback how much money and investment had been put into [teams like] Ireland and South Korea or Hong Kong, which brought big squads with lots of backroom staff.
“I am aware that money is not the answer but I have to admit that in modern sports, money plays a big part and we have to be careful that we don’t think we have a god given right to be [at the Olympics].”
For Coach McGrath and his team, the future of Samoa Sevens depends on the foundation of a solid way of training.
“We need to work hard and invest in our team because Sevens is a way of selling Samoa and Samoan Rugby to the world, so we need to use this as a wake up call to realize that there are teams that want to take our place.”
The shock and disappointment of not qualifying for the Olympics has been profound.
“The hardest thing for us will be to keep the players because […] they’ve given up so much concerning their work and family and sacrificed to take part.
“Many of them now have contract offers from Europe, New Zealand or Japan. Whether we can keep them in the boat or not is the big thing now.
“But as always, the great players have to go elsewhere to get paid well for what they do. We’re only a small country with a limited budget and I am not sure how we can break that cycle.”
For the team’s fans state of mind at the moment, the Samoa Sevens team coach showed his deepest comprehension.
“No one could be more disappointed than the team and the staff. We’re absolutely devastated and to lose so cruelly makes it even harder to take. I can only thank the fans for their support […] and we apologize for letting them down.”
As time will tell, the Samoa Sevens team will hopefully find back to old strengths.
Now that all eyes are on the Manu Samoa and their upcoming match against Tonga, Sevens Coach Damien McGrath keeps his fingers crossed for Samoa.
“Alama [Ieremia] is a good coach and they’ve got some great players, so I expect them to win.”