'Stage set for the sporting fairytale of 2022'

By Michael McCormack M.P. 18 November 2022, 1:00PM

Everyone loves an underdog story.

And the stage is set for the sporting fairy tale of 2022 – regardless of the result.

Pacific Island nation Samoa qualifying for the Rugby League World Cup final is testament to the growing nursery of talent in the wider Pacific region.

With a population of around 199,000 – which would sit between Hobart and Townsville if the country was a city in Australia – Samoa certainly punches above its weight in its representation in the National Rugby League.

The Toa Samoa, which translates to Samoan Warriors, boast bonafide league superstars. From NRL Grand Final winners from the Penrith Panthers; Stephen Crichton, Jarome Luai and Brian To’o, to State of Origin representatives Josh Papali’i, Anthony Milford and captain Junior Paulo – there is more than enough talent across the field to pose a very real threat to the Kangaroos.

Led by the inspiring Paulo, who delivered a rousing speech after defeating hosts England in golden point, 27-26, at the weekend – creating history by becoming the first tier two nation to reach the Rugby League World Cup final – the Pacific Island nation has won over many fans.

If the rugby league nation defeats the highly fancied and star-studded Australia, which has won 11 of the 15 World Cups contested, at Old Trafford on Sunday beginning at 5am, Samoan time, it would certainly go down as one of the greatest victories of any sport.

This is the same team which opened its World Cup campaign with a 6-60 loss to the English just one month ago.

Some of the Samoans may now live in Australia – and some likely were born there – but when their nation called, they answered the call.

Sport has a way of bringing people together. It is beyond languages, beyond borders. Australia and the Pacific Island nations share a passion for amazing feats in the sporting world.

More than 76,000 people living in Australia identify as having Samoan ancestry. Close to half of the players in the NRL come from a Pacific nation.

Australia has been a strong supporter of Samoa and the Pacific Island region. It’s what good neighbours should do.

The $52 million PacificAus Sports program, has, since 2019, has had a direct impact on some 850 players and officials, building careers and growing sports, such as Rugby Union and Australian Football, in the region. The Government has thrown its support behind the 2023 Pacific Games with a $17 million contribution.

More recently, the Federal Government partnership with Cricket Australia to facilitate and support pathway programs for Pacific athletes, including access to expert coaching and training. I commend the Australian Government for continuing to nurture this important relationship.

It goes beyond sport, of course. The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme has been established to give Pacific Islanders the opportunity to come to Australia to develop work skills, earn money for their families back home and, in turn, address domestic workforce shortages, particularly in agriculture and other regionally based industries.

Australia assisted our Pacific neighbours through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing, and continuing to provide testing kits, personal protective equipment, critical care equipment and other medical supplies, including supplying more than 40 million vaccine doses. This assistance builds on the existing support framework, which the 2021-22 budget estimate for the total Australian Official Development Assistance puts at some $1.6 billion including health security and economic recovery.

A significant investment of $170 million over 2021-26 will go towards ensuring Pacific women and girls are safe and are able to fairly access resources and opportunities and given the opportunity to contribute to decision-making.

An 80-minute contest between 34 men throwing a prolate spheroid ball around a field is but a small manifestation of the power of work being done to empower our Pacific Island nations.

• Michael McCormack is Australia's Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific.


Rugby league
Toa Samoa
By Michael McCormack M.P. 18 November 2022, 1:00PM
Samoa Observer

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