Toa Samoa ready for Pacific Games 9s
The Toa Samoa 9s are ready to have the spotlight on them during the Pacific Games rugby league tournament, having so often played second fiddle to Samoa’s national sport of rugby union.
The team for the Games features mostly local players, with four having flown in from Brisbane to join camp a week ago.
Coach Ponifasio Vasa said seven of the team are having a crack at league for the first team.
“Samoa is a rugby nation, and we’ve been trying to introduce league, our code, to the country.
“But still the interest of the players is with union.”
The Toa have recruited players from the union Super 9 competition, including co-captain Arnold Meredith of Vaimauga Eels, Tulolo Tulolo from A’ana Chiefs, and Faafou Amate and Watty Uati from the Savai’i Vikings.
“Rugby league is not a popular code in Samoa but we’ve seen the support from the rugby league fraternity and all the sponsors, and our executive,” Vasa said.
“We’ve come a long way, and hopefully we’ll do our best for Samoa.”
He said the team has made real progress over the last few months of training, and now it’s up to the players to perform.
“By the atmosphere in the camp, they are ready to go.”
Vasa said at Saturday night’s jersey presentation it was mentioned how great an opportunity this is for the sport and players, and that they can turn the Pacific Games into a great moment for themselves.
He said with the World 9s coming up in New Zealand in October, 2019 is a year in which the players could have a chance to push for contracts overseas.
“There is a big opportunity for them to showcase what they can do.”
He said they hope plenty of Samoans come down to Apia Park on Monday and Tuesday to support the team.
“We’re one of the first sports to play, so we really need to set the bar high.”
Vasa said the competition will be stiff.
“PNG is always strong, PNG is a rugby league nation, the opposite of Samoa.”
He said they are also expecting big things from Fiji, who won their three games against Tonga last month.
The Toa 9s are in Pool A with all three of those nations and they will play Fiji at 2:20 pm on Monday, before further games around 4:30 pm and 7 pm depending on results.
The Fetu Samoa 9s will play Pool A opponents the Cook Islands and the Solomon Islands on Monday.
Tuesday is finals day for both the men’s and women’s rugby league 9s competitions.