Written by Stuart McLennan
When I asked recently appointed Fetu Samoa women’s rugby league national coach Jamie Soward how he was going with immersing himself in the culture of the proud Pacific island nation as they prepare in camp for the international match against Fiji, he replied, “talofa lava (hello)” and explained how he has been watching the war cry and learning the national anthem. It’s a solid start for the former NRL star and Dragons NRLW coach who wants the job long term after being recommended by his former coach and now St George Illawarra colleague Shane Flanagan.
“My wife said you better do it. It’s a highly prestigious honor and you’re passionate. It just happened really quickly to be totally honest,” recalls Soward who credits his wife and two daughters as his coaching inspiration.
“I’m very proud to represent a country so rich in heritage and culture with so many great leaders. I’ve put the Samoan kit on the last couple of mornings and I still can’t believe I’m in charge of a country so early in my coaching career. It’s been really exciting.”
Soward will look to his captain Niall Williams Guthrie, playmaker Pauline Pilae-Rasable and hooker Destiny Brill who all had stand out NRLW seasons this year, to lead the way for his team while he has included three players from the New Zealand competition and Samoan domestic player Anasis Afia in his squad.
“Anasis has been great. She’s coming across with a lot of the cultural stuff and she’s probably the leader in bringing the girls together and teaching the girls, the Siva Tau (war dance) and the national anthem. So that’s been really powerful to watch. We’ve also had three New Zealand based girls come across in the camp. So those girls are going to get their chance you would think at some stage, maybe this weekend, but also hopefully in a World Cup.
“The older girls really take on that leadership role and help me get my message across and my standards. I want to see everyone play but I can’t pick everyone. I want to see those older girls get the chance to represent their heritage but it’s the next generation as well and setting that up. We go from the one test match to hopefully two next year, and then we’re in a World Cup cycle. So it’s important for us.
“I think they (Fiji) will be big and physical. A number of the girls are in NRLW systems so I know a little bit about them. It’s hard to do video preparation because there is not much out there. I’ve got some tips that we’ll go through once we get into PNG.
“The first thing for me is it’s a short term contract to get the win on Sunday. So I’m very confident that we’ll be able to go out there and perform and if we do that then I’ll sit down with the Samoan Rugby League and my staff and work out the best practice going forward. The one thing we need to do is to have strong bases within our Queensland, New Zealand and New South Wales chapters and the Samoan chapter as well. So that’s not an empty promise thing. It’s a lot of work and of course I want to be in charge otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the job but my main focus is on Sunday,
“It’s a really exciting time for us to have a team but also a chance for us to win the game. We are ranked 20th in the world at the moment and we take offence to that. We should be higher with the amount of talent that we’ve got.”
Fetu Samoa play Fiji Women in Port Moresby on Sunday 15 October at 1:45pm (AEDT)