Experienced Milo guiding Manusina to World Cup
The current Manusina era has so far been defined by new talent and new beginnings, since the programme was revived around 12 months ago.
But it’s an old head in 33-year-old, Bella Milo, that is attempting to guide the team to Rugby World Cup qualification from first five.
Milo, who is from the villages of Solosolo and Salani, is back in the national team having last played for Samoa at the 2014 World Cup.
As well as the positional responsibilities of organizing the team and keeping their shape, she is also taking a leadership role in the current group, who are contesting the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship in Fiji.
“It’s a bit weird being one of the oldies, in Manusina I’ve always been one of the young ones that could sit back and look to the senior players to lead,” Milo said.
After that World Cup in 2014, the team was dormant until last year’s Oceania Championship.
Since then, 44 players have made their debuts for the Manusina, and Milo said it is exciting to see those newbies come through:
“To see some young players put their hand up nice and early for Manusina.”
The ongoing Oceania Championship is the third campaign since the programme was revived, following the Asia-Pacific Championship in May and June.
The Manusina won that tournament over hosts Fiji and Hong Kong, who had a familiar face working with the team as their strength and conditioning coach - Bella Milo.
“When it came time for the anthem, it kinda sparked a few memories and I thought if I’ve still got the legs to do it I’ll put my hand up,” she said.
Milo moved to Hong Kong after the 2014 World Cup and has been based there ever since.
“I’ve got family over there… was asked to come over and play for a club,” she said.
“Fortunately, got a couple of other opportunities; women’s rugby has grown over there so got a role within the Rugby Union working for women’s programmes.”
A few other rugby imports help make up what is a small Samoan community in Hong Kong.
“A couple of the other guys that come over, they work for Disney, they do the siva afi in the Disneyland Lion King show,” Milo said.
She said she hopes to work there a couple more years:
“So far so good, the opportunities in Hong Kong are really good.
“Get a bit more experience within the rugby community, then hopefully in the long term move home and work.”
Another long-term goal is the 2021 Rugby World Cup, provided the Manusina qualify with a successful Oceania Championship campaign.
A 65-12 win over Papua New Guinea on Monday gave them the perfect start, ahead of game two against Fiji on Friday (5pm kickoff Samoan time at Churchill Park, Lautoka).
Milo said her team’s captain’s run on Thursday went well:
“We nutted out a few little things that we wanna try and improve on for tomorrow.”
The Manusina have made a late change to their lineup, with Joanne Seumalo leaving the team on Thursday after the death of her grandfather, for whom she was the primary full-time caregiver.
Mary Lumsden comes onto the bench in her place, looking to make her international debut.
Manusina team to play Fiji at Churchill Park, Lautoka on Friday at 5pm (Samoan time):
1. Marilyn Live
2. Margaret Vaiouga
3. Elieta Taito
4. Jacinta Ausai
5. Easter Savelio
6. Alyce Salaese
7. Masuisuimatamaalii Pauaraisa
8. Nina Foaese (c)
9. Jhana Magele
10. Bella Milo
11. Sieni Mose
12. Josephine Falesita
13. Luisa Gago
14. Apaau Mailau
15. Saelua Leaula
16. Hope Sa’u
17. Aigaevalu Samau Timani
18. Cynthia Apineru
19. Mary-Lee Sa’u
20. Mary Lumsden
21. Tuiala To'o
22. Billy-Jean Ale
23. Alafou Fatu