What does it mean for the Toa Samoa team to make it to the Rugby League World Cup 2022 finals?
It means everything to the people of a small island nation in the Pacific, because they are witnessing history being created. We are seeing our young warriors fight with all their might against the Superpowers of the Rugby League World Cup competition, similar to a David versus Goliath battle.
Toa Samoa beat England last week, one of the world’s superpowers of rugby league.
This week the Samoan community are organising community based events to rally together and channel their support through heartfelt prayers, messages of alofa, songs and dance as Toa Samoa prepares to fight against the Australians this weekend.
Irrespective of the score-line when that final whistle blows, every Samoan throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and the globe will have felt that Toa Samoa has already won the championship.
Why? Because Toa Samoa is the first ever Pacific Island nation to make it to the Rugby League World Cup final. They are the first ever second-tier rugby league nation to also make the finals. And they are now about to play against the world champions of rugby league – the Australians – who have won the World Cup 11 times.
So what are their chances against the mighty Australians? Well, Samoans are a spiritual people, and spiritual people believe in miracles. And the miracle has already happened when that tiny little island nation of Toa Samoa – Samoan warriors – beat England in the semi-finals 27-26. Not bad for a team that only played together for the first time one month ago.
I also remain optimistic as Toa Samoa are considered the underdogs. That’s an advantage. When you look at the make-up of the team, many won’t know that Toa Samoa consists of professional Samoan league players from the Australian NRL competition and two from the UK Superleague. Eight of the starting 13 Toa Samoa boys played in the 2022 NRL grand final. And 10 of the starting Toa Samoa were eligible to play for the Kangaroos team.
These boys have deliberately chosen to play for the ancestral nations of their parents and families. I suspect the superpowers of the game would’ve tried to prevent this from happening by seeking to change the international eligibility rules to stop players from representing their ancestral or heritage nations.
Yet Toa Samoa personify a new age of Pacific peoples who are fearless, brave, vibrant, talented, professional, sought-after. I often refer to this diverse group as Generation 6 B (brown, beautiful, brainy, bilingual, bicultural and bold). They are determined Pacific people who have chosen to place love and pride for their community – a community that has raised and moulded them, before personal gain and fame.
So now the Samoan and wider Pacific community will reciprocate their love and pride in our ancestral nation by celebrating them, praying for them, singing for them, raising our island nations flag, and standing up proudly to support them.
We might not know their names, or the difference between rugby league and rugby union, but that doesn’t matter. As Samoans, and as peoples of the vast Blue Pacific continent, we are bonded together through geneaology and a long history of navigating the vast oceans searching for distant horizons, of carving out new opportunities for the next generation, through grit and hard work, and through the love of seeing our young people succeeding, especially in a public-facing role.
In the Samoan village of Falealili – they have a saying: “Ta fia Falealili fua”. When the Falealili young people performed a great task well, and word spread, Samoans all over would say “Ta fia Falealili fua” I wish I was from Falealili. That is how every Samoan now feels about the Toa Samoa. We feel strongly connected to them. We are bonded to them as our sons or brothers forever.
Manuia Toa Samoa. Samoa e i Aotearoa, ia tatou Tapua’i Fa’atamali’i. To all Samoans in Aotearoa, let’s celebrate safely.