By Michelle Curran
COVID-19 has thrown a huge spanner in the works for most sporting codes and following the cancellation of the remaining World Sevens Series tournaments in 2020, many players’ contracts have been cancelled, or their pay cut.
It has been a major wake-up call for Manu Samoa sevens player Tomasi Alosio, who has been forced to look at alternative forms of income to support his young family.
Yet, when one door closes, another one opens. After putting his hand up to take part in the inaugural World Tens Series, Tomasi has recently returned from Bermuda, excited about the new competition which has provided much-needed game time ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
When sevens was first announced it would be included in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Tomasi Alosio decided sevens was his game, and becoming an Olympian was the goal.
Of Samoan descent, but born and raised in Wellington, Tomasi attended formidable rugby school, St Patrick’s Silverstream, and played in the Wellington Rugby Academy system before lining up for then Mitre 10 Cup side Wellington Lions, and the Wellington Sevens team in 2015.
Tomasi was also selected for the Manu Samoa Sevens team for the first time that year – his dream of going to the Olympics became a real possibility.
He has been included in the national side since, and last year he captained the side.
“Unfortunately, we failed to qualify that for Rio however, after losing to Spain in the repechage,” Tomasi explains.
“Fast forward four years, and it is still a dream to qualify for the Olympics, and although we lost the qualifiers to Australia last year, the winner of the repechage will go through.”
With less than a year to the re-scheduled Tokyo Olympics, it is not certain when the repechage will be held due to the pandemic, Tomasi adds.
“Everything is up in the air, including if the World Sevens Series will take place next year.”
The Samoa representative for the World Rugby Players Association (WRPA) says there have been talks by World Rugby about staging a regional competition planned if the World Series does not eventuate.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year and the 2019/2020 season was canned, Tomasi reached out to Pacific Rugby Players (PRP), seeking its support to help him find opportunities outside sevens.
He had already returned to his F-45 coaching and teacher aide jobs in Wellington to support his wife Michaela and their two daughters.
“Pacific Rugby Players put me in touch with Carinat Sports Marketing, who Hale (T-Pole, PRP chairman) works for, and I was introduced to the team there including player agent Sam Lawrence.
“Carinat is a major organiser of the new World Tens Series, and I was offered the chance to go to Bermuda and play for Asia-Pacific Dragons.”
Held over three weekends from October 24 to November 7, eight privately owned teams contested the tournament, which culminated in a final at Bermuda National Stadium.
“It was full-on, and I loved being in a professional environment again, alongside a lot of sevens players as well as current and ex-international 15s players.
“The standard of rugby was high, with great players from around the world on the paddock who have been unable to play.”
Tomasi was the only current Pacific sevens player at the tournament, due to Pacific island nations’ borders being closed, and the Pacific 15s players there, were the ones based overseas, he says.
SX10, a South African-based team filled with sevens players from Kenya, Wales, Ireland and South Africa, claimed the inaugural World Tens honours.
From 2021, the tournament will be expanded to include 16 teams playing in 12 different locations around the world throughout the season, which will be outside of the World Sevens Series schedule, providing players with more opportunities to play.
Now back in New Zealand, Tomasi says his motivation to train and play is back with vengeance.
“With COVID-19, motivation kind of went out the window for a lot of us players, as we didn’t know what we were training for.
“A lot of the boys have been trying to find local competitions to get some game time and playing in the 15-a-side competition.
“This summer I will play in club sevens and club nationals – and will find any team to play for if my club Hutt Old Boys Marist is not taking part.”
Although the dream of becoming an Olympian is still vivid in Tomasi’s mind and he will continue working towards his goal, a positive takeaway from 2020 and COVID-19, is his decision to pursue a career as a policeman.
“I’m going through the process now and will start police training college when I can fit it in, depending on what happens with sevens.
“To be honest, I have not thought much about life after rugby up until this year…there is so much uncertainty now, and it hit me that rugby careers are temporary.
“This year has been a big wake-up call.”
For players pondering what is next for them after rugby, or needing support around the pandemic, Tomasi says do not hesitate to reach out to PRP.
“PRP has been awesome – the professional development workshops are really beneficial, and the organisation has already assisted a lot of the guys.”
Visit PRP for more information.