Former Manu Samoa leads by example
Former Manu Samoa lock Daniel Leo has stepped up to make positive changes for his Pacific countrymen.
Leo who also played for Wasps, London Irish and London Welsh has founded the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare and was recently appointed by the Rugby Players Association to deliver its new Cultural Diversity Programme.
According to the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Website, it was established in 2016 by Samoan, Tongan and Fijian professional rugby players to ensure players and their families are equipped with the professional support network and social skills they need to overcome the challenges of professional rugby and overseas living.
In a report it said that over 600 players of Pacific Island heritage now play throughout the European leagues - from the Top 14 & Premiership to National 3 & Fédérale 3.
“No matter what countries we are born in or call ‘home’, all Pacific Islanders share a common bond of which we are very proud - a close affinity to our family and communities. As professional sportspeople, it is that powerful connection with our families which keeps us all grounded”, PRPW said.
Daniel Leo also spoke and shared the aim and motives which inspired him to form this unique programme.
“Pacific Rugby Players Welfare is an independent not-for-profit organization that supports professional and semi-professional players of Pacific Island heritage in the UK and Europe – enabling their ongoing success both on and off the field”.
“Life in Europe can be very different to that which we know at home. Being away from our traditional communities and family support base can be difficult”.
“At P.R.P.W. our goal is to unify the Pacific community, providing a ‘family away from home’ - supporting players and their families both during and after their pro-careers here in Europe”.
The Pacific Rugby Players Welfare main core services goes into insurance programmes, social pension funds, local community integration and family support & counselling programs.
It also caters for non-rugby skills trainings, post rugby development visas and transition with drugs and alcohol issues with the Pacific Rugby players.
The Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director are former Manu Samoa players.
They are the PRPW’s founder Daniel Leo and Mike Umaga.
They are also assisted by some fellow ex Manu players and representatives like Junior Paramore and Lome Fa’atau.
“Junior’s not employed by the RPA, he’s just working with me on PRPW and it was important for me to keep that separate from the RPA. Whenever our boys see something is part of a hierarchy they can switch off and go into their shells a bit, so it’s good to have Junior on board.
I was New Zealand raised, as are 80 per cent of PI players here, and I’ll be able to connect very well with them, but for the other 20 per cent who were raised on the Islands it is important to deal with someone like Junior, who was raised in Samoa and can relate to them.
He’s a little bit older and having that generational difference is useful because we respect our elders. Plus, he’s a legend in the game that’s been in England for over 20 years”, Daniel Leo interview with Neal Harvey.
A few other Manu Samoa players are also in the Pacific Rugby players Welfare like Census Johnston, Kahn Fotualii, Johnny Leota and Lome Fa’atau who are in the players Board.
“The PRPW programme uses a community based approach to provide a range of culturally sensitive support services to Pacific Island players and their families”.
“Our nationwide Community Support Team consists of qualified lawyers, accountants, counsellors, coaches and former players of Pacific heritage who have settled into English/European life and whom are willing and able to pass that experience along”.
“Well respected among the Samoan, Tongan and Fijian communities the team is available 24/7 to help support players and families through any issues requiring cultural context and understanding”.