Tupou suspension should be the template for all players and officials

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The suspended Manu Samoa Sevens captain, Alatasi Tupou, is not the first rugby player to misbehave – in Samoa or anywhere in the world for that matter. 

But he is certainly the first player in Samoa the Samoa Rugby Union has chosen to make an example of – publically at least – of how they are moving to deal with bad behaviour that soil the sport’s reputation.

It’s a positive step in as far as addressing behavioural problems within rugby goes. It is also long overdue. 

But the move is one we suspect will unearth a few more “bad boys” before the message actually sinks in. 

Keep in mind that this doesn’t just happen in Samoa. It happens all over the world including to the best of players and teams. Just look at what happened to Jordie Barrett of the All Blacks last weekend and how he ended up inside a stranger’s apartment after enjoying a night out? 

He is not the only one either. We can go on and on about the history of prominent players misbehaving from one time to another but you get our drift.

It’s a given that wherever too much alcohol and other forms of drugs are involved, there will always be problems.

And given rugby’s drinking culture, we would not be at all surprised if some of those senior Samoan officials, including Coaches and Managers, who are notorious for making a fool of themselves in public after a few beers start fronting their very own Samoa Rugby H.P.U’s Integrity Unit. 

Perhaps they should also put in place an Integrity Unit for officials. That would definitely be interesting to see.

After all, good behaviour or role model behaviour should start from the top. Which means that if players are now being hauled and hung out publically for misbehaviour, officials should not be immune.

Make no mistake about it. 

Judging from what we’ve been told about Tupou’s drunken night out, the Samoa Rugby Union’s decision to deal with him publically is a timely message for players who sometimes forget their responsibilities and what’s expected from them as role models and public figures. 

Indeed, the territory especially being the captain, comes with responsibilities.

Since these players are adored by their fans and many young children who aspire to grow up to be like them, they ought to maintain a reasonable standard in terms of behaviour in public. 

Professional athletes all over the world know this. It’s probably the most annoying part of their lives but let’s face it, if people didn’t care and followed them, they wouldn’t be who they are.

Here in Samoa, national players in different sporting codes have not been subjected to the level that Tupou has been made an example of during the past two weeks. Many of them have gotten away with bad behaviour in public – if not worst than what Tupou has been suspended for.

But this is why we say the decision by the Samoa Rugby Union in handling the Tupou issue is the right one and timely too. 

From our standpoint, this is not necessarily about the suspended Manu Samoa Sevens captain as a person but rather it is about the principle, changing attitudes towards a culture of tolerating bad behavour. This shows that rugby in Samoa is serious about transforming its image to a more professional one. 

In any professional sport set up, the treatment of Tupou this week is not unreasonable at all. There are rules and laws, which exist to deal with such matters, and they are applied all the time when needed. 

Besides, what was the captain of a national team doing getting smashed on the eve of two very important tournaments in London and Paris? Perhaps this is normal and maybe Tupou didn’t think that anything would happen as a result. 

Which is why it is refreshing to see that the Samoa Rugby Union did not bury this under the fala and continue to tolerate bad behaviour.

The challenge we see for Samoan rugby in going forward is to ensure that everyone is treated the same, that Tupou doesn’t become a lone ranger in the bad behaviour department while everyone else is let off the hook.

Which means that the template used to deal with him should be applied across the board to all players and officials – regardless or where and when things happen. 

It is when consistency is applied to these decisions that make them more respectable and allows for the lessons they are meant to teach to sink in and begin to change behaviour and attitudes. 

Let’s hope the decision against Tupou is the catalyst needed to fix Samoan rugby’s mess off the field – and eventually lead to the desired results we want on the field. 

What do you think?

Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!

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