Marist gears up for fifth Coca Cola Touch Tournament
The organisers of the 5th Coca-Cola Touch tournament met on Thursday to finalise preparations in the lead-up to kick-off this Friday at the St Joseph's College, Alafua.
It is a two-day event with the men and women's divisions playing on Friday and the mixed division on Saturday.
Marist Sports Club Tournament Director Taupau Alex Mikaele told the Samoa Observer that this weekend’s event marks the fifth edition of the tournament since the first one in 2017. “This is a featured sport in the Marist sports season program for this year so for this year we've rebranded the name or the rights of the tournament,” he said.
“It's still under Vailima Breweries but we've rebranded it to Coca-Cola.
"Before it was called the Vailima Marist Touch tournament but for this year, given the circumstances that all the borders are locked, no overseas players, and no overseas referees that will be attending the tournament.
“We are very excited as that gives us the opportunity to localise the many components and aspects of the tournament."
The number of participating teams has also increased this year according to Taupau, specifically in the men’s division.
“So we've gone from eight last year to 12 this year. For the women's, we have three teams competing for the women's trophy.
“Then eight mixed teams competing for the mixed teams' trophy so in total we have more than 20 teams that will be competing across the two days of competition."
Taupau said the teams in the men’s division include SCOPA, Nofo Swifters, Maximum 6 and Why So Serious with SCOPA and Why So Serious the new teams in 2021.
“Maximum 6 is run by a group of young people and Nofo Swifters used to be in the tournament but last year they did not compete so we are considering them as newcomers," he said.
Marist will field three teams and have a presence in all the divisions of the tournament and are considered one of the favourites, said Taupau.
"Marist will be fielding all three divisions so we're heading into the tournament with Marist as the defending champions for the men, No Idea as the defending champions for the women, and then Played Runners as the defending champions for the Open Mixed."
"But we do have a lot of competitions for this year, for the men's and mixed divisions, and also the women's as well.”
Nofo Swifters is another team to keep an eye on in the men’s division, says Taupau, as he said they were last year’s champions of the open tournament in the Samoa Touch Rugby Association competition.
Taupau said they are the reigning champion and they just recently won the social men's division a couple of weeks ago
"So they are heading into the competition with a lot of momentum, other newcomers and other new teams and clubs that have been around for a couple of years, they have a lot of potential too,” he said.
One feature of this year’s tournament will be the absence of overseas referees to officiate all the matches and the finals, which now opens the door for local umpires to step up. "Previously, we've been inviting guest referees from New Zealand to help in officiating the matches so given that we do not have any referees from overseas, we will be utilising a lot of our local referees,” said Taupau.
“This is probably the first time for the Marist tournament other than the first exception that is going to be conducted and officiated by all local referees.
"So it's a good opportunity to develop our local referees' capacities and we do have a lot of referees.”
Some of the local referees were upskilled and credited during the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa with Taupau saying that this weekend’s tournament enables them to demonstrate their credentials.
“So that is another big help of this tournament to build up our local administrators and also players and management as well.”