Sport: NRL club St George Dragons assess local talent in Samoa
Australia NRL team St George Illawarra sent a team of scouts to Samoa to test out the country's local rugby league talent, with an eye to forming a long-term partnership.
The St George Illawarra Dragons are hoping to tap into Samoa's local rugby league talent after spending four days testing players with an eye to bringing them over to Australia.
The trip was orchestrated by Dragons and Toa Samoa Strength and Conditioning coach Scott Campbell, who told Vinnie Wylie more than 200 prospective athletes were put through their paces.
SCOTT CAMPBELL: I've travelled there a couple of times and seen the very athletic looking young men strolling around the island and always wondered why there wasn't some sort of system that was giving them the opportunity to play in Australia so I spoke to our development people at the Dragons, and we decided one of our projects for 2014 will be to, instead of travelling around New South Wales Country, to travel to Samoa and run a clinic and test some players [and] see what potential they have to come back here and play.
VINNIE WYLIE: Is there no real formal NRL club up until this point that had been tapping into that talent in Samoa?
SC: No, not in Samoa. Probably not in Tonga. I've heard of quite a few players from Fiji being spotted but there's no organised system.
VW: So who sort of identified the locals, the young talent, to have a look at?
SC: We were linked in with the Toa Samoa Rugby League management. They're very keen to eventually have local boys playing in the team that represents them in the World Cup in 2017 - this is an ongoing wish that we all have. We worked on their physical ability with endurance, speed and strength testing on day one and a small amount of skills - we brought some more players back on day two and that was more of a skills-based day - and then on day three we played a game. Ben Harrant is the development officer or recruitment officer at the Dragons - he came with us and he cast his eye over them while they were playing the game and we now have video of their game and we have all of their statistics from the testing. We're just running over it at the moment to make a decision on what players we will be bringing over to Australia.
VW: So the guys that get the call-up that get to come over to Australia to be with the Dragons: is that just sort of like spend a week and see how it goes or is it a scholarship?
SC: There's no formal scholarship but we're expecting them to come here for the rest of the year. So if they came here in two weeks time they would spend about ten weeks here in our system doing their strength training, conditioning and speed, learning all the nutritional factors within the organisation and they would be playing here. They may be playing in our 20s comp or they may be playing in the local competition or Carlton league - we have three different levels of football here in Woolongong so we will find a spot for them, get some regular football.
VW: So that would be contracts and that would be at the expense of the Dragons?
SC: Yes the Dragons are covering that expense. It's an opportunity to learn a bit about the culture and it was particularly good for the other people in our party who hadn't been to Samoa.
VW: And is anything confirmed for next year Scott - you guys obviously sound like you guys are keen to go back?
SC: Not yet, no no. Step by step. The plan is to do it for two or three years at least. It's a progression I'd like to think we'd be able to do it again and develop it so we have a larger recruitment number on the day.
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