Penrith Panthers assistant to coach Toa Samoa

By Talaia Mika 19 September 2023, 6:03PM

The assistant coach at the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) team Penrith Panthers, Ben Gardiner has been appointed the new Toa Samoa head coach.

The announcement was made at a press conference in Apia on Tuesday afternoon by the President of the Rugby League Samoa (RLS), Fiu Ponifasio Vasa. 

Gardiner will take over from Mau-a-Pule Matt Parish who stepped down from the role two months ago, after leading Samoa’s national rugby league team to a historic Rugby League World Cup grand final late last year. 

"Many applied but we've selected someone with much experience and with much involvement in the sport, not only is he involved with a top four team who are heading to the finals this weekend, but also with his previous experience being involved with international tournaments and world cups in the previous years,” said the RLS President. “He has also spent much time with Pacific players."

According to Fiu, seven international applications were submitted to the committee with no local interest in the head coach role. 

Gardiner was the assistant coach for the New Zealand Kiwis in 2017 and was born and raised in New Zealand. He was also the former Western Suburbs Magpies coach.

The RLS Committee was also confident about his involvement and bonding with the Toa Samoa players playing for the Penrith Panthers over the years.

The only worry for the RLS management was the new head coach's involvement in the NRL finals with Penrith Panthers scheduled to take on the Melbourne Storm for a berth in the grand final. However, Fiu said their coaching staff have been reminded of their job to reach out to the players ahead of their Pacific test matches next month. 

According to the participation agreement for the Pacific test matches, the team should camp seven days before the commencement of the game which is during the White Sunday long weekend here in Samoa.

The Toa Samoa and the Fetu-playing squads are scheduled to meet on 7 October before the 2023 Pacific Championships kicks off. 

This is a developing story.....

By Talaia Mika 19 September 2023, 6:03PM
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