Parish excited about SBW-Johns dream team joining Samoa coaching ranks
Toa Samoa coach Matt Parish has revealed he had been planning to approach Sonny Bill Williams about a role with the team and is now hopeful Andrew and Matthew Johns will also be involved with the World Cup campaign.
Parish confirmed he would contact the trio after Matthew Johns revealed they had been discussing coaching roles with Samoa and said he was excited about the possibility of having some of the biggest names in the game involved with the Pacific nation.
“Matty has got possibly one of the best tactical minds in rugby league and always has been known for that so to have his input would be invaluable and to have someone like Sonny involved would just be unbelievable for the development of our leaders within the team, which is something we need to develop.
“If you look what he has done in sport – whether it is rugby league, rugby union or in boxing – you are just in awe of the bloke and to have his mentoring and leadership around the group would incredible.
“If you look at all the top NRL clubs, they have good leaders in their teams so having those guys involved, and particularly Sonny, would be just awesome for the Samoan team.”
Parish was surprised Matthew Johns chose to announce the trio’s interest in working with Samoa on his Sunday night Fox Sports program.
However, Parish said he had been intending to approach Williams about a role once the nations competing at the World Cup received confirmation the tournament would go ahead as scheduled in England from October 23, with Samoa taking on the host nation in the opening match at St James Park.
“As soon as I heard about it I was excited that they want to be involved,” he said.
“I didn’t think that The Matty Johns Show was the right place to express their interest but to have people of the calibre of Andrew and Matthew Johns wanting to be involved with the Samoan rugby league team, and Sonny Bill Williams, is great for our loyal fans, players and everyone involved with Rugby League Samoa.
“I hope to be able to reach out to these guys in the next few days to see what interest and level of commitment they would have with the team, if and when the World Cup goes ahead.”
Samoa have about 85 eligible players in the NRL but many have pledged their allegiances to other nations, including Australia and New Zealand, whereas Tonga has been able to field a team strong enough to beat the Kangaroos, Kiwis and Great Britain in the past four years.
This has led to a whispering campaign about the Samoan team camps under Parish, who has been coach since the 2013 World Cup.
However, Parish fiercely defended himself against any accusations and insisted he encouraged the Samoan players to embrace their culture.
“I find some of those comments disrespectful and defamatory,” he said. “Anyone who has been involved with me in Samoa knows that I have been very respectful of the fact that culture and families are a big part of what we do.
“That is why I have always had Fereti Tuilagi, who is well known to the players and in the Samoan community, as cultural manager because that is an important part of what our camps are based around.
“The board of Rugby League Samoa has always been very supportive, particularly with the Prime Minister [Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi] as patron and [Tagaloa Fa’afouina] Su’a as president.”
With seven members of the unbeaten Penrith Panthers eligible for Samoa, and five-eighth Jerome Luai, centre Stephen Crichton, winger Brian To’o and prop Moses Leota being incumbent Tests players, Parish was confident he would have a strong team at the World Cup.
The involvement of the Johns brothers and Williams would be a drawcard for others who may be considering playing for Australia or New Zealand.
“Obviosuly Tonga have done very well recently and they have been able to get the players they have wanted, which is something we haven’t been able to do for a number of reasons but getting Andrew, Matt and Sonny involved will certainly help the process.
“The fact they have come out and expressed their interest shows how much they care about international footy, and also the game. I would be hopeful that if I can’t get them all involved, then certainly one or two of them.”