Passion, pride on the line

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 07 May 2016, 12:00AM

Here we go again. The war of attrition between traditional foes two proud nations comes to life tonight in Parramatta when our very own Toa Samoa confronts the might of the Mate Ma’a from Tonga.

When it comes to test footy, it doesn’t get any better than two of the biggest international rivals with extremely proud people going at each other. 

The reality is that it doesn’t really matter what code, sport or tournament it is. 

So the Pacific test, which is a double header that also features Fiji and Papua New Guinea, fades into oblivion and takes a back seat to the battle of emotions tonight. 

Indeed, mention Samoa playing Tonga and people will know straight away what to expect. For these two nations, it’s all about pride in thyself; family and country. Nothing more, nothing less.

This is why the clashes are wonderful to watch, it is why the tension is high, it explains why the hits are monstrous and it also tells people who might not know why the fans – including Samoans here and abroad – become so worked up by the whole experience.

As a people, we can probably lose to Fiji and get it over the next day. 

Not Tonga though. We don’t like losing to Tonga and the feeling is mutual for the Tongans themselves. The last thing they want is to lose to Samoans. There is a lot if history behind the rivalry but that’s perhaps a story for another day.

In the build up during the past few weeks, a lot has been said about eligibility rules and issues that have perhaps prohibited some star players from taking the field for either team. 

One of the biggest talking points in as far as Samoa is concerned is the absence of Anthony Milford who has obviously put his ambitions of donning the green and gold jersey of Australia ahead of his passion for Samoa. You certainly can’t really blame him and many other athletes who are in a similar position.

To be frank though, we’re tired of all this talk about Milford. It’s been going on for too long. Don’t mistake us, Milford is a gifted player but how long more must we wait and hope for something that is not going to happen. 

It’s time to move on. Find the next Milford for Samoa. It’s that simple.

Looking at coach Matt Parish’s squad, there a numerous notable changes from the line up that defeated Tonga during their last encounter. Missing are star players such as Daniel Vidot, Mose Masoe, BJ Leilua, Tim Lafai and Josh McGuire among others.

But hope is not lost. 

There are plenty of quality footballers in this squad, led superbly by the ever so young Frank Pritchard who will again combine with Sam Kasiano. Who can forget their heroics last year with that try saving tackle? Pritchard, Kasiano and Junior Paulo will give the Tongans a lot to tackle.

Elsewhere on the park, there are classy ball players such as Kirisome Auva’a who will no doubt look to make a point after being overlooked by the other teams. He will be assisted by Tim Simona, Pita Godinet, Antonio Winterstein and Ricky Leutele who will provide the spark to the Toa Samoa backline. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer earlier this week, Coach Parish seemed pretty confident in his players. 

 “The reason I put together the team that I have now is because they were the best players available at the time,” he said.

 “We have picked a very good team with a good mix of experienced players and some exciting younger players picked for the first time with next year’s World Cup in mind.

 “I am confident that the players selected will do their families and the Samoan people proud.”

We have no reason to doubt that. And we can hardly wait for the opening whistle. So go Toa Samoa. Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 07 May 2016, 12:00AM

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