This article first appeared in the matchday programme for Rotherham Titans v Jersey Reds in the Greene King IPA Championship on Saturday 18th November 2017
When we go to Bristol, strangely I always feel that the ABBA song is most appropriate! Since we were last there, they’ve certainly been spending the cash. The old main stand is now replaced by the Atyeo stand, with Media Centre, amazing changing rooms and facilities for the teams and even padded seats for us up in the top tier, where several of my colleagues admitted to a touch of vertigo. We were joined before the game started by the remains of the Bristol squad – apart from the 40+ they had running round on the pitch for the warm up! They had a few missing on International duty as well; 1 playing for Georgia and 4 playing for Samoa. It still meant that our youngsters were up against the likes of Sheedy, Pisi, Piutau, Cortes, Hurrell and Varndell. The very scary Steven Luatua was also on the bench – do check out his contributions to the Barbarians v All Blacks as he is a terrifying player with the ball in hand. Bristol didn’t bring him on and I don’t know if I was relieved or disappointed!
It wasn’t the money at Bristol that was on my mind though when I started to research this piece, but the 4 players out for Samoa do have a bearing on it. On 8th November, the Prime Minister of Samoa said that their rugby team was bankrupt, just before they started the Autumn Internationals against Scotland and England. A ‘Just Giving’ page was set up by Dan Leo and the Pacific Rugby Players Welfare Group, to try and support the players who probably won’t be getting the £650 match fee from their Union. Just for comparison, the match fee for the England players is around £23,000 – each – and to their credit the Vunipola brothers have started their own campaign for the England players to donate part of their fee to the Samoa squad. The RFU do cover all the Samoan expenses while on tour; transport, hotels etc but the divide between the teams for what they receive is quite staggering, especially since the RFU stand to make around £10 million from the match at Twickenham.
When I last checked the website, the total raised so far was £3,184 from 144 people. They are aiming for £150,000 which is the equivalent of £1 from each seat at Murrayfield and Twickenham where people will be entertained by the skill and aggression of the Samoan team. How much of the match day earnings actually go to the Samoans? Traditionally none, but the RFU are planning a ‘contribution’ this time. How many times have England gone to Samoa to play a match there and help raise funds? Never.
Surely proper rugby supporters can do better than just 144 people contributing! Every team in the Premiership, Championship, Pro 14, even probably National One have some link now, or in the past, to the skill and power of players from the South Pacific Islands.
So for us at Roth, just a quick reminder of the debt we owe to some very special guys:
As they say on Strictly, in no particular order (and with special thanks to rothrugby.co.uk):
- Ifereimi Boladau Fiji
- Isaac Fe’aunati Samoa
- Niki Goneva Fiji
- Chris Hala’ufia Tonga
- Latu Makaafi Tonga
- Opeta Palepoi Samoa
- Seru Rainima Fiji
- Jacob Rauluni Fiji
- Tu Tamarua Cook Islands
- Semisi Taulava Tonga
- Hiroshi Tia Samoa
- Alfie Tooala Samoa
- Mike Umaga Samoa
- Talite Vaioleti Tonga
I would be proud to buy any of these gentlemen a drink in our bar, and so I will be donating to the fund, with grateful thanks to them all in the name of Rotherham Rugby. I would encourage any of you to do the same, for without the likes of Alfie, Jake and the amazing Mr Umaga, Rotherham Rugby wouldn’t be the club it is today, proud to be supporting the career of yet another gem from the South Pacific with Bola. Long may the tradition continue!
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