Fetu Samoa gearing up for clash with NZ
The Samoa women’s rugby league team are gearing up for their test match against New Zealand next weekend, kicking of their first training session in Auckland earlier this week.
Fetu Samoa were overpowered by the Kiwi Ferns on their return to international rugby league last year, but head of Rugby League Samoa’s New Zealand chapter, Geoff Muliaga Brown, said the upcoming match is a chance at redemption.
“This is a test. You’re playing the Kiwi Ferns, they’re one of the best teams in the world so we certainly want to make sure we’re putting in the work,” he said.
“Its unfortunate we can’t have girls from overseas involved, which we generally do, but we’re quite confident we can put together a very competitive Samoan team.”
Samoa is limited to New Zealand based players due to Covid-19 restrictions, while a number of key players from last year’s test fixture are also unavailable.
Muliaga Brown said their absence offers a chance for others to secure a Samoan representative jersey and will further develop the women’s space and Pasifika engagement in the sport.
“A lot of girls are unavailable because they’ve become mothers and injuries are another factor. There are a couple of girls who were in last year’s test who are based in New Zealand and have had concussions, but we’ve managed to retain some of the core group purely because they bring that understanding of expectation and experience,” he explained.
“There’s a lot of new faces, a lot of new names involved in this campaign and we’re excited about that, but we certainly don’t go past the girls that we had last year because they are definitely a big part of what we’re doing for this test.”
With the New Zealand Rugby League women’s championship underway, a number of girls are training with their respective teams for the grand finals this weekend.
Muliaga Brown confirmed there are players eligible for both Samoa and New Zealand, and they would have a clearer picture of what their team would look like once the Kiwi Ferns, who have first selection, announce their squad this Sunday.
“We’ve got players in both those teams that are part of our campaign, so it’s an exciting time for them but it’s also nail-biting for us to make sure they pull through unscathed with no injuries.”
“A lot of these girls know each other as well so really it’s going to be a great spectacle. We’ve just got to make sure we do the best by Samoa, we prepare as best we can and make sure we do everything possible to be ready for this game.”
“Right now we’re focused on the 24 players that we have on our database but we certainly wouldn’t turn down very experienced girls that would make themselves available to us, but nothing can be certain until the Ferns finalise their squad.”
Ross Uele will be leading the team on the field next weekend for the one-off 2020 match, due to the unavailability of head coach, Glenn Brailey, who is based in Australia.
Uele is the current Akarana women’s provincial coach playing in the grand final this weekend. He has a wealth of football knowledge with both his sons coming through the Auckland representative system, while his eldest, Braden Hamlin-Uele, is a regular first grader in the NRL’s Cronulla Sharks.
Ross will have stalwart Fetu coach, Frank Fuimaono, working alongside him in camp with help from former Warriors NRLW manager Liz Ah-Kuoi as the teams manager.
“We’ve got a very strong leadership. We’re working hard, we’re working endless hours… It’s very little time [to prepare] but in the context of growing the game and investing in rugby league, I think we’re doing okay.”
“Our goal is this game next week on Saturday and we’re pretty excited about it, and it will be another stepping stone to figure out where Samoa and Samoa women are going.”
“We want to fly the flag and show the federation we exist and always have existed, but also I think it’s important to show our Samoan community that we have a team.”
Niue and Tonga will feature in the curtain raiser before Fetu Samoa play the Kiwi Ferns in the main event at Mt Smart Stadium on November 7.