Touch player balancing administrative roles in big year for the sport

Taupau Alex Mikaele of the Samoan open men’s team for the Touch World Cup in Malaysia has a busy year ahead of him in the sport he loves.

On top of the World Cup in April/May and a potential place in the Pacific Games squad in July, he also has administrative roles in touch as the vice-president of Samoa Touch Rugby Incorporated and tournament director of the Vailima Marist Touch Tournament, which is serving as a test event for the Games in July.

As well as all that, Taupau has his day job at the Pacific Games Office as sports service manager.

“I just love it, my passion is the sport [of touch] itself, and also I like doing events,” he said.

“Anything to give back to the sport, whether it’s being an organiser for an event or playing, whatever aspect or facets that I’m involved in touch, I love every bit of it.”

The sports service manager role involves coordinating and planning so that each field of play for the Pacific Games meets international standards.

“There’s a lot of aspects that brings that together.

“I work closely with each of the national federations, with their competition manager.”

The particular federations each then deliver their Pacific Games event.

“The legacy of the Games stays with each of the federations,” Taupau said.

He said his job was critical given the time-pressure of getting Samoa ready for the Games.

“Making sure they’re doing what’s required from the international federation.”

Taupau made his international debut at the previous Touch World Cup; 2015 at Coffs Harbour in Australia.

He said it was a rewarding year, with the team later winning the gold and silver medals for mixed and men’s touch at the Pacific Games later on in 2015.

“That was the first time we took a local team to the World Cup.

“There was a lot of work that went into making sure the tournaments were successful.”

He said it is a good thing that the World Cup and Pacific Games happen in the same year.

“Gives each countries’ players the opportunity to play in both, and also get some gametime [at the World Cup, for the Pacific Games].”

Taupau said there are some lessons he has taken from the last campaign into this one.

“As a team we weren’t as physically prepared.

“I took that as a challenge upon myself, to try and be physically prepared this time around.”

He said it would be particularly important this time, with the number of teams in each pool increasing from four to eight, meaning every team will play seven games at least.

Taupau said the other thing that is different in this year’s campaign is the new coach from Australia, Peter Shefford.

“He’s sort of bringing in a new vibe and also playing style to the team.

“There’s a lot more technicality in the game.”

He said Shefford brings elements of the high standard of touch New Zealand and Australia are playing now.

“We’re trying to sort of catch up as a nation

“The boys are trying to absorb as much as possible to try and catch the top nations on the big stage.

Taupau said they hope to perform better as a team in 2019.

“It’s a challenge that as a team we’ve used it to drive all our preparations.”

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