Samoa coach Matt Parish says the only way the Pacific Test will garner the support it deserves is if the NRL moves it to the end of the season.
Samoa coach Matt Parish has urged the NRL to consider shifting the Pacific Test to the end of the year to ensure it gets the respect it deserves.
Parish’s men clinched the last-remaining spot for this year’s Four Nations tournament on Saturday with a spirited 32-16 win over rivals Fiji.
The two sides gave the 9000-strong crowd plenty to cheer about in what proved a very physical battle – including a hat-trick to Penani Manumaleali’i and surprise appearance from retired league legend Petero Civoniceva for the Bati.
The match ended on a disappointing note, however, with Samoa’s Cronulla forward Sam Tagataese sent off in the final minutes for headbutting Sydney Roosters rookie Kane Evans.
But Parish said he was proud of his side’s achievement.
“It’s massive for rugby league in Samoa,” the coach said.
“They’ll get government funding and sponsorship now, and I think it can really set league up on the island there for the next five or six years.
“About 38 per cent of players in the NRL are Polynesian – so we definitely need to promote the game through the Pacific, particularly in countries like Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.”
Parish had just six members of his World Cup squad available for the match, not including in-form Canberra fullback Anthony Milford, who chose instead to play for Queensland in Saturday’s under-20s State of Origin curtain-raiser.
“Players wanted to play – the disappointing thing is the clubs don’t support it,” the Raiders assistant coach said.
“I think the NRL, to make this game worthwhile, they either play it at the end of the year and get everyone to support it or they don’t.
“You’ve only got to see by the crowd and the atmosphere here, particularly after the game, what it means to people.”
Parish was confident there’d be no shortage of stars wanting to represent Samoa and play alongside traditional heavyweights Australia, England and New Zealand at the end-of-season Four Nations tournament, which starts in October.
“It’s up to them now. They need to keep playing well for their clubs,” he added.
“But I’m pretty sure there’ll be a lot of players putting their hand up.”