Dream year for Manu Samoa's Henry Stowers
Manu Samoa loose forward, Henry Stowers, has capped off a dream year by winning Australia’s National Rugby Championship (N.R.C.) with the Western Force.
Stowers started at blindside flanker during their 41-3 win in the Championship final on Saturday, and said he is stoked with the result.
“It’s been a big year, like a long year, so to get to the end and take it out, it’s well worth it,” the 24-year-old said.
The Force led by just four points at halftime before cutting loose after the break.
“Our coaches played a big part in that,” Stowers said.
“We came in at halftime, they pretty much told us the picture that they saw, and a few things we weren’t doing so well in the first half.
“Tighten up our attack, play simple footy, that’s pretty much what we needed to do and it showed on the scoreboard.”
It was the Force’s maiden N.R.C. title (although previous incarnation Perth Spirit won in 2016), and a first home final for the side.
“To do it in front of the fans was even better, they deserve it,” Stowers said.
Stowers deserves the recognition too, at the end of the season which began in March with Global Rapid Rugby.
He then earned his Manu Samoa debut during the Pacific Nations Cup (P.N.C.), although missed out on selection for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
But Stowers said that wasn’t really a disappointment; that even playing P.N.C. was a dream come true:
“If I had made the Rugby World Cup that would have been a bonus.
“That they even had a look at me was amazing.
“It’s more learning, and it made just push that little bit harder.”
He said he returned to Perth and tried not to be down and got back to work.
“It’s paid off and I’m a national champion now.”
Stowers, who is from the villages of Tafagamanu and Salea’aumua, said the N.R.C. title is the third biggest achievement in his career to date, behind winning the World Rugby U20 Championship with New Zealand in 2015.
“Making Manu Samoa is definitely number one,” he said.
Stowers was watching Samoa’s World Cup from the sidelines like everyone else, and sending messages of support to his teammates.
“No matter the result, they’ve made everyone proud,” he said.
And of course the loose forward is keen to get back to the international level:
“Whoever’s watching… I’m hoping they’re seeing my games because I’m striving to put the blue jersey on again next year or whenever it comes.”
Whether or not he plays for the Manu next year, a trip to Apia Park could still be on the cards with the prospect of Kagifa Samoa playing home fixtures against the Force and others in a full home-and-away season of Global Rapid Rugby.
Stowers said that would be an awesome game to play in:
“And to showcase the talent in Samoa, because there’s so much talent there.
“It gives a chance for the local players to get seen, and get off the island, get contracted somewhere else.”
But beyond an expanded Global Rapid Rugby season and the call of the blue jersey, there is an even bigger motivating factor for Stowers; his family.
“That’s the only reason why I play,” he said, thanking his parents and grandparents at home in Wellington for putting him on the path to success.
That family can’t come over to Perth to see him play though - they stay home to look after Stowers’ brother who has special needs.
“Obviously he’s the biggest inspiration for me, he’s my heart,” he said.
“I write his name on my wrist every game.”