REPORT- COUNTRY FIRSTS TOUR OF SAMOA
Country Firsts Tour of Samoa
The Country Firsts Team assembled at the Holiday Inn in Potts Point on Friday July 13th for their departure to Samoa the next day. All players were put through a medical before dinner and few drinks and watching Friday night footy.
10.00 am Saturday morning we were on the bus to Moore Park for a training session before returning to the Holiday Inn for lunch and final preparation before departure to the airport. We boarded our flight DJ93 at 4pm for Samoa arriving around 1.15am on Sunday morning in Samoa, by the time we cleared customs and were transported to our accommodation at Aggie Gray’s in Apia it was 3am before we got to bed. But there was no time for sleeping in, breakfast was at 8am followed by church nearby at 9am.
After church we boarded the team bus which had to be seen to be believed, it had no windows, wooden seats and bald tyre’s and headed to the other side of the island for a swim and lunch at Lalomanu the home village of the Samoan Prime Minister and the site of a Tsunami in 2009.We returned to our accommodation around 4.30pm it was an early night to bed.
Monday was game day against the Samoan Prime Ministers 13 at 3.30pm but before that we were on the field training at 9am in very warm and humid conditions but fortunately by kick off it had clouded over and a sea breeze blowing and conditions were better for playing. The boys came out of the sheds full of running and midway through the first half were leading 18 points to nil, before the Samoan side put their first points on the board. Another converted try saw country leading 24 - 6 before the prime ministers team got on a roll and scored two unconverted tries, the half time score had country leading 24 - 14.
The second half started much the same way with country scoring early to stretch their lead. It was tough going with some solid defence and big hits from both sides, the final score NSW Country 36 defeated Samoa 24. It was a hard fought win but came at a cost with 3 players sustaining serious injuries, Jade Porter hamstring, Brendan Hlad knee and Simon Williams shoulder. Some of Country’s best were Shane Grady, Sam Wooden, Todd Maloney and Jamie Feeney with Feeney being named players player in a close vote.
Try Scorers for Country included: - Terence Seuseu, Justin Smith, Todd Maloney, Jamie Feeney. Sam Wooden converting all 6 goals.
Tuesday was a day for recovery and to start treatment on those injuries sustained in that first game. It was also our first chance to have a look around Apia. That night both teams were welcomed to the Australian high commissioners residence for a few drinks and to meet some of the expats that live and work in Samoa. Both teams mingled with the guests and each other sharing their experiences.
Wednesday and we were back on the paddock training in the morning, followed by a visit to a local school for some coaching clinics with the kids. The Players split into four groups. Two groups went into the classrooms where they answered questions from the children, the other two groups out in the playground doing some skills and games with the children. A highlight of the visit was the kindy class singing a welcome song to the players. Back at our motel for dinner on Wednesday night we were treated to a traditional tribal dance and fire sticks.
Thursday was to be a day of sightseeing but we woke to heavy rain and with the bus not having any windows we decided to give it a miss and instead had a rest day. Our medical staff gave their time to go and pass on some expertise on injury management at the local academy as well as some of the players on recovery methods.
Friday morning and we were preparing for game two against the Samoan Residents Team which was given test status with a New Zealand referee appointed to the match. As we approached game time Brett Jones the country coach was finalising his side, but who was going to be fit out of the injured trio of the first game as well as Beau Woodley contracting a virus and was in serious doubt. Our medical staff consisting of Doctor Hugh Hazard and Physio Tony Ayoub did a marvelous job treating our injured players getting them fit to play. As it turned out Beau Woodley was too ill to play and Simon Williams did sit on the bench but wasn’t used and so we played the game with 16 players.
The game kicked off in 30 degree heat which sucked the energy out of the players very quickly. It was another torrid encounter and there was no repeat of the first game for country getting away to a good lead it was close all the way. When Michael O’Shea was stretchered off midway through the first half with an ankle injury it was getting tougher for the country boys. Half time score Samoa 12 Country 8. The second half was much the same as the first with country scoring first to equalize with the conversion attempt unsuccessful it was12 all. Samoa were next to score and convert to lead 18-12 and with the home crowd right behind them it was looking ominous for the country boys and time ticking by country scored next but again was unsuccessful with the conversion and behind 18 -16. Some solid defence by the country players denied the opposition a couple of scoring chances and with only 3 minutes left on the clock country received a penalty which allowed them to get into the oppositions half and with some smart play Jade Porter crossed to put country in front and Steve Gordon added the extras to grab a hard fought win. Final Score Country 22 defeated Samoa 18.
All players gave their all and had nothing left in the tank. Brendan Hlad was named players player. A great effort considering the injury he sustained in the first game. Try Scorers for Country were: - Chris Pyne 3, Jade Porter and Jamie Feeney. Steve Gordon 1 goal.
The day finished off with both sides attending after match function and exchanging gifts from both teams. A big thank you to Chris Newman from Samoa Rugby League development for his assistance to the country team while in Samoa. A great week was had by all and we would like to thank Country Rugby League for the opportunity to represent and promote the game in Samoa.
All the photos from the week can be found on the CRL Facebook site (www.facebook.com/crlnsw)