Player one step away from Manu Sina spot

Virginia Iona Sofara has come a long way since she played her first game of rugby at the Leulumoega-Fou College in 2009.

The 25-year-old lass of Vailuutai and the daughter of Savelina and Iona Sofara has made the Manu Sina training squad for 2020.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Sofara revealed that it is not the first time for her to be called into the Samoan women’s training squad.

Kicking off her rugby career at the Leulumoega-Fou College in 2009, she was selected to play in the Satapuala Rugby Club, before breaking into the Manu Sina training squad that year.

Two years later, she was selected to be part of the Samoan national side to participate in the 2011 Pacific Games in New Caledonia, but did not make the two-week sporting event due to her age ineligibility.

“In 2011, there was a tournament, the South Pacific Games that was held in New Caledonia. However, I wasn't able to go. I was selected to go but because I was not at the right age, I had to stay behind," she said.

Under the Games bylaws only those who have reached 18 years of age can travel and participate in the regional tournament, and she was 16-years-old at that time.

But that did not stop her from continuing to aim for the sky as a rugby player. Consequently, she was selected to represent Samoa in the development team that toured Australia in 2011.

"So I had the chance to represent Samoa under the development team, after that tournament in 2011 I came back and continued on in 2012.”

In 2013 she stopped playing as she had to focus on her studies as it was her final year in college and returned to the game a year later. 

"I graduated in 2013 and returned to rugby in 2014 and that's the year I started to play as a Manu Sina player. 

“I had the chance to go to the Oceania Games that was held in Australia, then to Malaysia, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea for the South Pacific Games in 2015. 

“For 2016, I was only able to be a part of Oceania in Fiji.”

Sofara continued to play in 2017 and 2018 but had to put her dreams on hold in 2019 as she had to return home to look after her family.

Speaking of her re-entry into the Manu Sina training squad this year, she said she felt honored with her selection.

“But now, I have been selected again, I am very honored. My hope right now is to develop my talent at least now I have the strength," she added.

However, there are some challenges that lie ahead for this seasoned rugby champion, with one of them being a new team unlike in previous years. 

"For me, it is trying to get used to how my other sister plays her game. For instance, if there's two or three of us from the same club, and we get here and they divide us into three different teams, the challenge for me is to get used to how each player plays. 

“As we are not used to each other our combinations will not be good too. We would have to work together and make sure the other one knows how the other plays or each player is able to read the other player's moves without a word.”

Ultimately Sofara feels comfortable on the field and uses the opportunity to encourage the younger players not to give up and to keep trying. 

"My advice is do not give up trying. I mean if you are not selected in this year's squad, your mind will be exhausted and you will stop trying. 

“But I'm telling you to keep trying, not every hit is a hit. There is a time where you will have your chance to shine. Like now, we have newcomers, now they are training and I am sure they will be better in no time.”

Asking to pick which one of her representative games was her favourite, Sofara picked the 2014 tournament in Australia when they became one of the champions. 

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