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The American National Rugby League has appointed Keiki Misipeka as its new development officer in the territory.  “I am very pleased with the selection.  This is a great opportunity for me to scout the talents we have here and to develop the game of rugby league in American Samoa,” Misipeka told this correspondent.

The 31-year old Misipeka and his 18-year old brother Kea play for the United States Rugby League team, the Tomahawks.  Keiki has been recalled for the test match against Tonga for the Ohana Cup. That will take place on May 12 at Kaiser Stadium in Hawaii. 

Brother Kea, who is the youngest player ever to play for the Tomahawks suffered a knee injury and will have to undergo surgery.

Misipeka will leave early May to prepare for the match against the Friendly Islanders but he has been busy looking for potential players to be recruited from here.

“The Marist sevens gave me an opportunity to observe some prospects.  I have picked two potential young players from Aua and Fagatogo.  They played extremely well during the two day sevens competition and they caught my attention,” Misipeka explained. 

The players are; Henry Leatio’o from the Fagatogo Rugby club and Peter Masoe who played for the Marist Pago team. Leatio’o is 18 years old and Masoe is 22. According to the AMNRL new development officer, the two players have the physique, talent, and knowledge to advance for selection in the Tomahawks’ 2013 World Cup campaign.

“My biggest hurdle in getting these players to the United States is raising funds to pay for their trips and other expenses.  I’m working closely with the Smart Brothers of Field House 100 to get the finance necessary to give these players exposure,” Misipeka said.

The new rugby league development officer would like to have players here placed in league teams in Hawaii and in the mainland. According to Misipeka, the local players would certainly be given the chance to tryout for a slot in the United States Tomahawks team for next year’s World Cup competition in Europe should they perform well.

“My ultimate goal and last hurrah in rugby league is to make the US team for the 2013 World Cup tournament. I want to pass on my knowledge to future American Samoan players that will one day represent the United States or the territory in international competitions,” Misipeka told this correspondent.

The Fagatogo native said rugby league is an ideal sport for High School leavers who have played football and rugby in their young lives.

“Rugby league is like football.  We have six downs as opposed to four in football.  Rugby is a contact sport as well.  The transition to rugby league will not be hard for athletes who have played these sports.  We have plenty of talented young players in American Samoa.  My long-term plan is to form an AMNRL expansion league in American Samoa.

“I’m in the process of putting together profiles, scout reports and later on some video footages of the talents that I’ve looked at and send them to the AMNRL main office in Philadelphia”.

Misipeka played football for the Samoana High School Sharks team in the 80’s. He went into rugby and became one of the best players in American Samoa during his time with the Fagatogo Blues. The Manu Samoa scouts picked him out and Misipeka found himself representing Samoa in international sevens tournaments as a Manu Samoa sevens player for two years.

When he left the territory, he excelled in rugby league in the United States and was selected as a member of the United States national team the Tomahawks.  He is back on island with his wife and five children taking care of family business.

He plans to meet with governor Togiola Tulafono and inform him of the formation of the AMNRL in the territory. The United States Rugby League is expanding quickly with new conferences and teams being set up in Hawaii, the Midwest to the Southwest, Denver, Utah Las Vegas and now American Samoa.

“Gaining a foothold in American Samoa is a huge positive for the AMNRL and rugby league in general and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity, through Keiki’s involvement, to tap into a wonderful talent pool and grow this great game,” said AMNRL president David Niu.

Anyone interested in contacting Misipeka he can be reached at : k.misipeka@mnrl or 252-5206/699-3630.