Labour Party Member of Parliament for Mangere, Su’a William Sio
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA: FRIDAY 06 JUNE 2014: The idea of the New Zealand All Blacks playing on Samoa soil is just a political gimmick to gain recognition and support from the Pacific people as the voters go to the country’s election in three months’ time.
This is the view of the New Zealand Labour Party MP Su’a William Sio.
Su’a was part of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s delegation that visited Samoa and tok part in the celebration of the country’s 52 years of independence. Su’a is of the view that John Key used this trip to Samoa to talk rugby when he knew the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) will never take such risks.
“It was fine for Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi to talk about rugby because he is the Chairman of Samoa Rugby Union,” said Su’a.
A test match between the All Blacks and Manu Samoa in Samoa was one of the issues discussed during a joint press conference held by the two leaders.
Key however was clear that the final decision is up to the New Zealand Rugby Union.
Tuilaepa said both Unions are working on finalising a suitable date for the match and he hopes the test would take place before next years’ World Cup.
Su’a agrees with Tuilaepa that it was time for New Zealand to pay homage to Samoa and the Pacific for producing some of All Blacks finest players, but for such a test to happen is just a dream.
He acknowledges that the Pacific deserves such a treat from the All Blacks.
“We played Wales and Scotland on our fields, and it would be a shame if the Springboks would accept an invitation to play in Samoa while the All Black is still throwing the idea around,” said Su’a.
Su’a however is opening the debate that New Zealand would better help Samoan rugby by securing a sponsor for the cash strapped Samoan union.
He has also started discussions with the NZRU Chief Executive Officer, Steve Tew.
“Whilst NZRU supports rugby in the Pacific, it is not easy to slot such a test match into the All Black’s already ‘congested international calendar,’” Tew told Su’a in an email.
“We will continue to look at options for taking the All Blacks there,” said Tew.
“The All Blacks are very aware of the Pacific legacy within the team – and would love to play in front of a Pacific crowd,” he said.
There is also a problem of securing the release of players from the European and Japanese clubs they are contracted to.
“We also need to balance playing there with New Zealand Rugby’s strategic objectives of maintaining a winning All Blacks team and keeping the game financially healthy. A winning team, committed sponsors and an expanded global brand helps keep the game strong here.”
Since 1930’s, NZ teams had played against the Pacific teams.
The visiting teams included the Maori All Blacks who played 31 tests in the pacific.
The Junior All Blacks last visited in 2009 and the Heartland XV played in Samoa in 2012.
“Last year NZ offered Fiji the Maori All Blacks during their centenary year, however the difficulty in securing their international players meant Fiji was unable to commit to this.”
Tew also highlighted the support rendered by the NZRU through development workshop programmes in the pacific.
Some of the programmes includes:
• New Zealand Rugby hosting development workshops in Auckland specifically focused on growing the game within the Oceania region, attended by representatives from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, PNG and the Solomon Islands. Hosting Samoa and Fiji and nine other teams in the IRB Junior World Championship 2-20 June in the Auckland region.
• Hosting the Samoan Women’s side Manusina to play in a series to help their preparation for Women’s Rugby World Cup.