From Samoa Sevens to Manusina

Wed, 22/09/2021, 01:55 am
Oceania Rugby
by Oceania Rugby
Ramsey Tomokino with Manusina squad members from Tasman and North Harbour following their Farah Palmer Cup clash
Ramsey Tomokino with Manusina squad members from Tasman and North Harbour following their Farah Palmer Cup clash

When Samoan Ramsey Tomokino set out on his coaching career 21 years ago, he first had to answer one confronting question.

Had he squeezed as much as he could from his own playing career having represented Samoa in sevens ahead of the establishment of the Sevens World Series and being selected as a non-traveling reserve for Rugby World Cup 1995 when squads were limited to 26 players. 

And, if not, why not?

"My biggest challenge was myself, my lack of belief that I could do it," he said. 

"It is a real Polynesian trait sometimes to lack self-belief and think you can’t achieve something.

"Even though I was told I could be this, I just didn’t think it could happen to me. 

“I still achieved a few things but I know now I was capable of so much more.

"One of my motivating reasons as a coach is to push players, advocate for players, and make them believe in what they can do and become. 

"I lacked the mentor that I now try to be for my players."

Tomokino, whose daughter Taylah represented Samoa, has been much more than a mentor to a generation of Samoan players in all forms of the game.

He has coached, managed and administered from school level through to the international arena, putting in countless hours for a cause he firmly believes in.

The 50-year-old's current challenge is arguably his greatest.

As coach of the Samoan women's 15-a-side team (Manusina), Tomokino has to somehow pull players from all over the planet and navigate a path to the 2021 World Cup (held over until late next year in New Zealand) during a global pandemic.

He has lost count of the number of online meetings he's planned and sat in on, emails and messages sent, and conversations had in an attempt to pull the team together for a final crack at qualification.

As it stands –baring any further challenges caused by COVID-19 on travel,–Manusinawill compete in a four-team play-off in Dubai for one of the last remaining Rugby World Cup spots.

Colombia has booked its qualifying play-off spot, while Kazakhstan or Hong Kong and Spain or Ireland are looking most likely to fill two spots with Samoa taking the last position– if they can get there. 

Strict quarantine regulations in New Zealand, Australia and Samoa –the three countries where the majority of the squad is based – are complicating travel plans and causing planned matches in 2021 to be cancelled in Australia and New Zealand.   

Tomokino declared: "If we had to pick a squad tomorrow we could.

"We know we can get to Dubai but we don’t know if we can get back unless there is some serious Government intervention.

"The New Zealand Government has done it for the All Blacks and the Black Ferns but they won't necessarily do it for other athletes.

"My great fear is they(World Rugby) will go on world rankings if we don’t go and we will miss out on the World Cup again."

Manusina has been down that road before and the damage is still being felt. 

"Samoa could have been at the 2017RugbyWorldCupbut were denied the opportunity to qualify, due to lack of a domestic competition,"Tomokino said.

"Momentum was lost and so much ground has had to be rebuilt. We lost a presence in the women’s game and a pathway. 

"Samoa’s ultimate to goal is to be at the RWC2021 (playing in 2022)in New Zealand. It would be a real shame not to see Manusina represented in what we consider our backyard.

"It would add an element to the atmosphere.

"When we played Tonga in November(RWC 2021 qualifying match)before the Black Ferns-Barbarians game, the atmosphere was fantastic. At the conclusion of our game the stadium emptied out; that is the buzz that Pasifika teams like Samoa can bring."

Hours after this interview, Tomokino stayed up late in New Zealand to join a Zoom meeting with the Dublin-based World Rugby to discuss the situation, rounding out a 14-hour day that started and finished with him discussing the Samoan cause.

Why?

"I've got a love for rugby but it's also about the opportunity to serve Samoa. I love what I am doing for Samoa and our people," he stated.

"I've always resonated with the underdog. It’s in our upbringing – you've always got to battle and work hard for everything.

"I am enjoying the journey trying to get the team together. I love a challenge and working under pressure.

"I like re-building projects and we are getting better and better."

Manusina are looking for a chance to prove it to the rest of the rugby world.

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