The eyes of the Pacific and much of the rugby league world will be on Samoa between July 7 and 20 when the Pacific Games will be hosted in the capital Apia.
Rugby League will be a key competition for the 20 competing nations as the play for the coveted gold medal in the 9’s form of the sport. Hosts Samoa will be amongst the favourites, but they will face huge challenges from Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands as well as some of the smaller islands, Niue, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu who played so well at the Emerging Nations World Championship in October 2018.
For the first time ever the rugby league event will feature a women’s competition which, again represents the amazing growth and appetite for the sport in the Pacific region.
Speaking about the development of rugby league in the Pacific, Tagaloa Fa’afouina Su’a who is President of Rugby League Samoa and Chair of the Asia Pacific Rugby League highlighted the importance of the Pacific Games
“This is a milestone for our sport with the first time in history to have the women’s included and it is such an achievement for all of our league community.
“All teams are prepared both men and women, so all teams are rivals.
“Samoa will also feature in the inaugural RLIF Oceania Cup in 2019 as they face Papua New Guinea and Fiji in Pool B. The winner of that tournament will be elevated to play in Pool A in 2020 with New Zealand and Tonga.
Su’a sees this as progress by the RLIF in achieving some of their strategic outcomes.
“Providing a framework for regular competition was one of the crucial items in the RLIF Global Conversion document. This gives the Pacific Islands much needed status on the world stage.
“It’s a challenge to win a place in Pool A and we must have a sound platform in order to be successful. We were in that position in 2014 when we reached the Four Nations which was an awesome feeling.”
“Being a success in rugby league is important to Samoa, not only to develop and grow the game but also to contribute to the overall picture from a tourism perspective and supporting the growth of our nation.
“Our goal is to have rugby league as one of the largest sports in Samoa, but we are not making any promises that we cannot deliver. Rome wasn’t built in a day."