Ads by Google Ads by Google

Marist Pago Sports Club to host the local 5th international rugby sevens Flag Day tournament

 launching of the 5th Marist Pago Flag Day International Sevens 2024 Tournament

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Marist Pago Sports Club is gearing up to host the Territory's international rugby sevens tournament scheduled for the 26th and 27th of April, where ten top teams from Samoa, one team from Fiji and one from Hawai'i have been confirmed to compete.

The tournament which over the years has become one of the main fixtures of Flag Day festivities, is highly anticipated by local rugby sevens enthusiasts and this year's 5th Marist Pago Flag Day International Sevens 2024 Tournament is no exception.

President of the Marist Pago Sport Club Taupa’u Tauileave Toluono delivering his remarks during the official launch of the 5th Marist Pago Flag Day International Sevens 2024 Tournament slated for the 26th and 27th of April. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

The tournament which follows the format of the annual Marist St. Joseph's Samoa International Sevens Tournament, was discontinued abruptly due to COVID -19 restrictions, but was revived last year thanks to the support of the Lemanu/ Talauega administration and the American Samoa Rugby Union (ASRU).

Coordinated by the local chapter of the Marist St. Joseph's Sports Club, the tournament has attracted many teams from Samoa and beyond, not only for the chance to test their skills against other top players from the other Pacific countries, New Zealand and Australia, it also provides an opportunity to visit friends and family in the Territory, and a chance to win the attractive US dollar cash prizes, which in Samoa would be more than double its value in Samoan currency.

Last year's tournament culminated with a spectacular final between Marist St. Joseph Samoa and Tepatasi, both from neighboring Samoa.

President of the American Samoa Rugby Union (ASRU) Falefata Moli Lemana commends the Marist Pago Sports Club for reviving the annual international sevens tournament during the recent official launch of the 5th Marist Pago Flag Day International Sevens 2024 Tournament. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

Marist emerged victorious winning the Governor Lemanu Cup, a cash prize of US$13,000 and other prizes prepared by the major sponsors — GHC Reid Oloa o Leala and ASTCA.

In addition, the tourney's executive committee paid the team's return airfares so they could return this year to defend their title.

This year's event was officially launched in a ceremony held recently at the Marist Pago Sports Club headquarters in Tafuna and was attended by representatives of local companies and government departments that are supporting the tournament, president of the American Samoa Rugby Association (ASRU), representatives of local rugby clubs and members of the media.

Club president Taupa'u Tauileave Toluono acknowledged with thanks the support of Governor Lemanu P.S. Mauga, Lt. Governor Laapui Talauega E.V. Ale and their administration of last year's tournament, and appreciation for ASRU President Falefata Moli Lemana and the mother union executive committee's sanctioning of last year's event.

Director of the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs Dr. Salote Aoelua-Fanene speaking in support of the upcoming 5th Marist Pago Flag Day International Sevens 2024 Tournament which is scheduled for April 26- 27 at the recent official launching ceremony. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

Taupa'u also thanked members of the local community who hosted off-island teams that participated and called for their continued support for this year's tourney.

According to Taupa'u, the Red Rock team from Fiji which made it to the finals against eventual winners Vaiala in pre-Covid times, has confirmed their participation in this year's event but will be competing under their new name, New Rock.

However, he revealed that former champions Vaiala Ulalei have informed the organizing committee that they will not be able to compete in this year's tournament because of another international fixture to which they have committed.

In their place, Sevens powerhouse Moata'a have been confirmed to participate. Other new teams from Samoa are Solosolo and Afega and there will also be a women's competition.

Marist Pago Sports Club President Taupa’u Tauileave Toluono receives a monetary donation from Visitors Bureau official Li’atama P. Savali who attended the official launch of the 5th Marist Pago Flag Day International Sevens 2024 Tournament on behalf of Director Taimalelagi Minnie Tuia. [photo: Asi A. Fa’asau]

The 16 teams will be divided into four pools, and the tournament draw will be announced on Draw Night in another three weeks where this year's sponsors will also be announced.

Taupa'u reminded the gathering of the objectives behind the revival of the tournament last year which played a pivotal part in garnering government support. These include;

(a) to help in the development of the sport in American Samoa;

(b) to familiarize the players and coaches with competing at the international level;

(c) to provide an opportunity for coaches and selectors of the Territory's national sevens team, Talavalu, to identify, select, and develop the skills of promising players;

(d) to promote gender equality, recognize and empower female players to compete at the international level; and,

(e) to promote a healthy lifestyle for the younger generation and encourage them to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

Another objective was realized last year in November when the national team Talavalu, comprising players selected from last year's tournament, competed in the Marist St. Joseph's International Sevens in Apia, the Oceania Olympic Qualifiers in Queensland, Australia and the 17th Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Consequently, it has been the catalyst in the rekindling of interest and support from the local community for the sport of rugby sevens as American Samoa was once again represented in the international arena.

Local referees also benefited from workshops to update their knowledge of officiating especially with new rules being adopted by the game's world governing body, World Rugby and saw Marist Pago Sports Club assist ASRU in the final leg of the 2023 National Sevens Tournament by coordinating workshops for referees, which will be done every year.

The final objective was also realized in October last year when the national women's team, Segaula represented American Samoa for the first in the international arena by competing in the 2023 Oceania Rugby Sevens Olympic Qualifiers held in Queensland, Australia.

ASRU President Falefata Moli Lemana commented on this historic achievement in an interview with a media representative of the Queensland Rugby Union.

“After 12 years of becoming a full member of World Rugby, the struggles of putting together a women's team to represent American Samoa in the world stage of rugby was surreal," Falefata said. "It was very difficult. Not only is rugby not an American sport, but the mentality of our local people, that rugby is a sport only for men.

"Nevertheless, we did not give up. Although very few in numbers we explored every avenue to ensure there will be women teams in all of our competitions.

"The people of American Samoa are very proud in supporting for the first time American Samoa's women's team’s participation in this year's Oceania Olympic Qualifier Tournament. The American Samoa Women’s team, Segaula, look forward to bringing their excitement to Brisbane!”

Subsequently, the Segaula team made sure their name was etched in the local history books not only for competing at the international level for the first time, but secured two victories on debut!

One was against the Cook Islands team whose players have been playing the game for many years, and some of them live and play in New Zealand but were selected to represent the Cook Islands because of their ancestry.

In his remarks at the official launch of the 5th Marist Pago Flag Day International 7s 2024 Tournament, ASRU President Falefata commended the hosts for their efforts in reviving this important international sports fixture and the development of the sport for the benefit of future generations of players in the Territory.

However, Falefata stated that the ASRU's current priority was for all coaches, referees, officials and administrators to be certified to ensure that they understand the many changes in the rules of the game which will enhance their performance in whatever role they play in their respective clubs.

He urged the Marist Pago Sports Club to make this their priority too.

He revealed that Oceania Rugby officials will be arriving some time to be confirmed later this year, to conduct workshops for local coaches, referees and officials.

“No matter how fit and committed players are, if their coaches are still using training techniques and on-field plays and strategies they used 20 years ago as players, rugby will never move forward,” Falefata declared. “That is why we need to get certification for coaches and everyone involved in all rugby clubs. Coaches, club officials, referees, administration officials so that everything is done professionally.

“As you are aware, rugby is a professional sport and elite players are able to make a living and take care of their families by securing multi-million dollar contracts. To achieve this, we must move with the times and the changes that have evolved in the game and its administration.”

He also stated that starting in the next school year, rugby will be included in the schools' sports curriculum and the ASRU will be working closely with the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC) and DOE to put together a sports schedule, so that every student will get the opportunity to participate in all sports and realize their potential in their sport of choice.

Moreover, ASRU and ASNOC will be monitoring these elite players and provide further opportunities to help them hone their skills and God-given talents by exposing them to competition at the international level.

This international exposure, he reasoned, will look impressive in their resumes and hopefully earn them full scholarships in whatever sport they excel in, so that they can continue their tertiary studies in Hawaii or the mainland without worrying about having to pay for tuition.

Falefata concluded his remarks by again thanking the Marist Pago Sports Club for hosting this important annual event and wished them well in their endeavors.

Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs (DYWA) Dr. Salote Amelia-Fanene also spoke at the official launching of this year’s international sevens tournament, where she declared her support because it is another avenue to empower women and keep the youth away from drugs and alcohol.

Another speaker that evening was Li’atama P. Savali of the American Samoa Visitors Bureau, who commended the Marist Pago Sports Club for initiating the revival of this important international tournament, which will bring not only players, but also friends and family to our shores.

 He extended warm wishes for a successful tournament from Director Taimalelagi Minnie Tuia who was not able to attend, and presented the organizing committee with a monetary donation from their office to help with the costs of the upcoming event.

The 12 off-island teams that will be participating this year include last year's champions Marist St. Joseph, Tepatasi, Apia Maroons, Tamauli, Lauli'i Lions, Afega, Moata'a, New Rock from Fiji, Marist Hawai'i, Vailele, Solosolo and Vaimoso.

According to Marist Pago Sports Club President Taupa'u Tauileave Toluono, the organizing committee has requested the assistance of the ASRU executive committee in selecting two teams consisting of members of the national men's team Talavalu, while the other two slots have been reserved for the top two local teams from last year's tourney to be announced later.

The 16 teams will be divided into four pools and the draw will be finalized and revealed on Draw Night slated for 13 April, where all the sponsors including the major sponsors will be announced.