Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Alo i ou faiva Toa Samoa!

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Samoa celebrate their Rugby League World Cup semifinal win over England. Photo: www.photosport.nz / Will Palmer / SWPix
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

It has been a crazy past few days for Samoans across the world. 

That’s because their beloved Toa Samoa etched their name in rugby league history by beating England in the semi-finals of the Rugby League World Cup, sending fans around the world into wild celebrations. 

For a team that was handed a 60-6 hiding by England at the start of the tournament, it’s been a complete turn-around by head coach Matt Parish and his squad. Much was said about the senior players’ performance and attitude in that match while others put the blame on Parish and his coaching staff.

Yet, despite the deafening outside noise, the boys in blue have done the unthinkable and are one step away from winning the Rugby League World Cup when they meet Australia on Sunday morning. 

So what exactly does this grand final spot look like for Toa Samoa in a nutshell?

The win against England makes Samoa the first ever Pacific Island nation and tier two nation to reach a Rugby League World Cup final in the tournament’s 68-year history. 

The grand final matchup this coming Sunday against Australia will be the second time the two have met on the World Cup stage and the third in internationals.

All have gone in favour of Australia, with the most recent match in the 2017 World Cup quarter finals. In each encounter Australia has been the dominant team resulting in a major flogging of Toa Samoa. 

Photo: IG - @toa_samoa_official
Photo: IG – @toa_samoa_official

With only a week to prepare, Samoa understand the task ahead and what it poses. Australia are the current defending champions, and are also no strangers to the finals arena. They have a star-studded line up of NRL talent in every position so Toa Samoa definitely have their work cut out for them.

On the other hand, Toa Samoa has had to claw its way to the top, carrying a massive injury toll. That opening fixture against England saw them lose Izack Tago, Hamiso Tabuai Fidow, Tyrone May and Braden Hamlin Uele. Their injuries did not stop there, as power forward Josh Aloiai also suffered a concussion injury. 

Hooker Dany Levi  missed out on last week’s semi final against England, after heading back home for personal, family matters. His replacement Fa’amanu Brown did not last long in the match and was taken off the field after a head clash. With no Brown or Levi in the mix, departing Warriors player Chanel Harris-Tavita looks to be the only remaining option at hooker for Samoa.

With the injuries, also comes the addition of new players to the squad. Veteran Tim Lafai and Ligi Sao were added after not even being included in the original squad. From the get-go, both Sao and Lafai have made quick turnarounds in the team, featuring heavily in their undefeated route to the finals after that first loss to England. 

Lafai’s efforts has been influential, earning him a spot in the Tournament team. Also joining him in that honour are captain Junior Paulo, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton and Jarome Luai. It is a record feat for Samoa having the most players featured in the Tournament team. 

Midfielder Stephen Crichton. Photo: IG - @crittaaa_
Midfielder Stephen Crichton. Photo: IG – @crittaaa_

Speaking to media earlier this week, midfielder Stephen Crichton said that the feeling of being able to put Samoa on the map is truly “indescribable”.

Crichton, who kicked the winning field goal to defeat England in the semi finals, also dotted down twice in the win. He will be looking to mirror that same effort on Sunday if they are to create more history.

There is no question how much Sunday’s final means to the Samoan community all around the world. Parades have blocked streets, Samoan flags are in high demand and Victor J Sefo’s “685” song is at an all time high on repeat via playlists across the world.

For a tiny nation with a population of just over 200,000, they surely have every right to be proud and celebrate. Their team have done the unthinkable; turned everything around and produced the greatest ever tournament performance in Rugby League World Cup history. 

And in the early hours of Sunday morning, as they run out to play in the final against Australia, you best believe that all 200,000 and more people will be tuning in all over the world.

Samoa backs you, the Pacific backs you, we all back you Toa Samoa. 

Alo i ou faiva! O le a matou tapua’i atu!

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