The Northern Marianas Rugy Union has committed to represent the CNMI in the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, prompting its players to work hard in every training session in hopes of building a very competitive team for the quadrennial event
“Head coach Soni and I are building a national rugby team for the Pacific Games in Samoa. All other countries in the Pacific are sending their national teams, so we have to be in our best form,” Northern Marianas Rugy Union president Stanley Iakopo told Saipan Tribune.
Iakopo informed Northern Marianas Sports Association, during the group’s meeting early this month, that Northern Marianas Rugy Union will be sending 15 players plus two coaches in next year’s Pacific Games, which will be held in Apia from July 8 to 20.
The rugby group currently has 31 players and the number is expected to increase as more people are getting interested in the sport. Trainings are held four times a week with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday sessions taking place at the Americal Memorial Park grounds and Saturday at the Oleai Sports Complex track oval or at the beach. The pool also works out at the Latte Built Fitness Gym.
“We push their training limits everyday. We always try to raise the bar to the next level. I am right next to them reminding them during training that we are representing our nation, our people, our islands, and our families. Our people are warriors, chiefs, we are powerful and talented and if we all work together and support one another we can conquer the inevitable. Head coach Soni and I will run through exercises over and over until we get it right. We test their minds, and especially their hearts to see how bad they really want it. They not only think it, they have to believe in it. The team as a whole is responding as if they’ve been training and playing rugby for years,” Iakopo said.
“Rugby is an intense sport, it’s not just about running but also focuses on strength and conditioning,” the veteran rugby player added.
Players hoping to make it to the national team are a mixed of experienced ones and newbies and Iakopo is happy to see that all of them are adapting well to their training regimens and showing a lot of camaraderie.
“They are fast learners and we call ourselves brothers. We refer to each other as brothers and we embrace the meaning of it because in the heat of battle, only family will come to our rescue, that we only have each other on the rugby field. We play as a family, we have one heart and one goal in mind and that is our strength,” Iakopo added.
The rugby head also said there are plans to bring in professional players and national coaches from Samoa or New Zealand and probably Australia to help further hone the local bets’ skills.
“In order for us to perform as a respected national team, we are going to need professional help. Our brothers have the ability to be the best and can play at national level rugby, but we need to train and practice like one,” Iakopo said.
“I truly believe that Chamorros and Carolinians along with our other athletes of Micronesian origin are made and built for rugby. With proper training, this CNMI national rugby team will outperform any Polynesian player or team,” he added.
Meanwhile, as part of their preparation for the Pacific Games, the islands’ rugby players will face a selection from Guam in a training match this Saturday at the CPA Airport Field, starting at 2pm.