A critical 10 months, the Pacific Games

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Alexander Rheeney

Finally, a win to restore some much needed pride in that blue jersey¬, and to end the Northern Hemisphere Tour on a high.

The Manu Samoa victory has had a mixed reaction from fans back in the motherland—if the public comments on social media here and abroad is any indication—with some even asking whether the 28-10 victory over a team ranked 20 on world rugby rankings is worth it.

But take a closer look at the world rugby rankings and you will notice that Samoa is currently ranked 16, just ahead of Spain by four and behind U.S.A (by one) and Georgia (by three)—two teams Manu Samoa played against during the Northern Hemisphere Tour and lost in recent weeks. 

Manu Samoa head coach Steve Coach has approximately 10 months to work on his squad and get them into shape, if they are to stand a chance against Russia, Scotland, Japan and Ireland in Pool A of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Currently, Ireland sits second on the world rugby rankings, Scotland seventh and Japan eleventh. Russia is ranked nineteenth in the world. 

It will take a miracle for Manu Samoa to move to the next stage of the RWC finals next year—but strange things have happened at previous World Cups, and pulling of upsets against some of the tournament’s favourites is entirely possible. Think of Japan’s Cherry Blossoms beating South Africa’s Springboks 34-32 at the 2015 RWC, creating a place in sporting history. Not to mention too the effort during Manu Samoa’s golden age in the 1990s, when Manu beat Wales twice in 1991 and 1999. 

So now that the team’s sole victory in the Northern Hemisphere Tour has put a smile back on our faces, lets get out there and give them all our support.

Public support will go a long way in pushing them all the way and ultimately be the difference between a victory and a loss. It is entirely possible that a Tier 2 nation could put one over a Tier 1 nation, and that team could be the Manu.

On another front we note Samoa’s successful hosting of the regional basketball tournament, the 2018 Polynesia Cup. The November 18-25 tournament—the first for Samoa to host—was an overwhelming success. Top marks to the Samoa Basketball Federation and the sponsors who made the country’s hosting of the event possible. The regional tournament is good preparation for the 2019 Pacific Games, which gets underway in July next year.

There is always debate in Pacific Games hosting nations on the benefits that would flow back to the local economy and the people. Back in Papua New Guinea (P.N.G), the government came under a lot of criticism for channeling millions of kina in public funding to sporting infrastructure, when the country hosted the Pacific Games in 2015. 

A lot of the criticism targeting the Government was justified. The P.N.G government had a poor record in service delivery—it did not ensure education material were delivered to schools, health centres and hospitals did not get their monthly drugs supply, and government machinery came to a halt in a lot of communities due to the lack of funding—which impacted on the lives of the people. It is always a matter of giving essential services priority, and striking a balance between ensuring the needs of your people are met, and the objectives of hosting a regional sporting event are ticked off. Tragically, P.N.G was not able to strike that balance between ensuring the continuation of service delivery to its people and hosting a world-class sporting event.

But Samoa, thanks to its much improved social indicators and development generally, is in the box seat to host a great Pacific Games while continuing to ensure that it delivers the essential services to its people.

In fact other Pacific nations would watch with interest how Samoa handles the accommodation arrangements of all athletes and games officials in hotels—which is a first in the history of the Games. Its success (or the lack of it) could pave the way for future games to become less expensive and a burden on the public purse. 

We can only hope for the best with the countdown already underway for the region’s biggest sporting event and the RWC in Japan. Looking ahead, surely our sporting administrators in Samoa are already looking to making the 2019 Pacific Games a memorable one—which would be a boost for the Manu Samoa, a month away from their first game in the RWC.

Well it is the start of another week Samoa, lets get out there and support our rugby champions on their return to the country. Have a top working week and God Bless. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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