Founding Pacific Rugby Players (PRP) member Mapusua Seilala Mapusua brings not only his own experience and insight as a professional player to the table, but he has just been appointed as the head coach of Manu Samoa.
When Seilala, along with Hale T-Pole and Deacon Manu founded the Pacific Rugby Players’ Association – now the PRP – in 2013, the vision was to improve conditions for Pacific players around the globe.
Seven years on and the vision remains the same, and Seilala believes his new role will provide a unique perspective for his work at PRP, and with Manu Samoa.
Mapusua Seilala Mapusua’s appointment as head coach of his old team, Manu Samoa, is a dream realised.
Last week, the co-founder of Pacific Rugby Players (PRP) and former Highlanders and London Irish midfielder was announced as the man to take over Steve Jackson, whose coaching contract expired at the end of last year.
At the same time as Muliagatele Brian Lima was named coach of the Samoan men’s sevens team.
The former Manu Samoa teammates have both signed two-year deals after their appointments were endorsed and ratified by the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) Board.
“It has been a crazy time,” Seilala says.
“Coaching my old team has always been something I thought I’d like to do – in terms of the timeline, it has happened quicker than I anticipated but it is a space I have wanted to be in for a while.”
Seilala, who serves on the PRP Board and is the “go-to” for anything regarding the game in Samoa, was recommended by a five-person selection panel to take over the coaching duties.
Together with SRU, Seilala will spent time working through details of his role, the coming season – namely the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifying matches for the Manu Samoa against rivals Tonga in July/August 2021, and navigating the current global pandemic, he adds.
Aged 40, Seilala was born in Moto’otua, Samoa and grew up in Wellington, New Zealand.
After attending school at Auckland’s Wesley College, Seilala moved to Southland and joined Otago for the 2000 provincial season.
His strong performances for Otago saw him earn a contract with the Highlanders for the 2002 Super 12 season and he remained a fixture for both Otago and the Highlanders through 2006, before heading offshore to play professionally in England and Japan.
Seilala proudly represented Samoa playing 33 tests for Samoa and the Pacific Islanders between 2004 and 2013, including Manu Samoa’s famous win over Australia in 2011.
The motivation to start PRP stems from Seilala’s personal experience playing for Samoa during the Pacific Nations Cup, contesting Tonga and Fiji, he says.
“The conditions were not the greatest for the players.
“A group of us got together (Hale, from Tonga, and Deacon, from Fiji) and started talking – we decided we could not carry on like this, and conditions needed to improve for future players.”
The establishment of PRP took a while to manifest as the group only got together when the Pacific Nations Cup was on, Seilala says.
It is a uniquely Pacific organisation, and very hands-on, with the three founders doing everything initially – from decision making to stakeholder and player engagement.
“We weren’t sure if we were doing it right, but we knew we had to do something if we were going to have any impact.
“I think key to getting PRP up and running successfully, was we were all at the end of our playing careers but still in the team environment, so we still had good relationships with the players.”
His recent achievement is in a category of its own, he says, and it can only help him accomplish PRP’s goal of improving conditions for Pacific players.
“As a coach, I am familiar with the landscape and can see things from a player’s point of view.
“I can help with what’s needed and also ensure players’ needs are being met.”
Going forward, Seilala hopes to see Pacific players on the same start line as everyone else.
“What I mean by that, is Pacific players have the same conditions, treatment and are afforded the same level of voice on matters as top tier teams.
“Essentially I would like to see the abolishment of the tier system and the stigma attached to being a lower tier team.”
Thanks to PRP’s work with Pacific players and unions around the globe, Seilala feels things are headed in the right direction for these improvements to be made.
“It will be interesting to see what happens in the next four years, with the reappointment of World Rugby Chair, former England captain Bill Beaumont; and the opportunities Covid-19 has provided.”
Opportunities include resetting the global calendar and addressing the club versus country dilemma and the clashes that occur, as well as eligibility of players, Seilala explains.
As an organisation, PRP has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go, and lots of work to do to achieve its vision, he continues.
“Our size and the fact our players are scattered around the world makes us a distinctive players’ association.
“I would love to see it grow so we can continue to provide Pacific players with the best treatment and outcomes possible, be at premier or grassroots level.”
By Michelle Curran