27 Jun 2017

Sport: SRU says ex-coach behind welfare concerns

5:05 pm on 27 June 2017

Samoa's Rugby Union has placed the blame for some of the concerns an Under 20 player's family had over player welfare, on the former coach of the side.

Last week Ethan Lolesio's family wrote an open letter to Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, in his capacity as Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union.

The letter outlined a number of concerns around the Australian-based player' treatment saying he he was not looked after as promised, was housed in the High Performance Unit, (HPU), without hot water, kitchen facilities, regular meals or proper toilets.

The Prime Minister of Samoa and Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, the Honourable Tuilaepa Fatialofa Aiono Neioti Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi.

The Lolesios wrote to PM Tuila'epa who is also the SRU chairman Photo: Photosport

Their letter stated Lolesio, who was later dropped from the team, also had to receive medical treatment for multiple boils on his body due to the conditions of his accommodation.

The SRU said it took player welfare very seriously and pointed out previously the national 7's team and 2016 U20s team had both stayed at the High Performance Unit without any problems.

The union said some of the issues cited by the Lolesio's could be traced back to the fact the coach JP Leota did not provide any training or accommodation plans.

It said it was difficult to accommodate and prepare players at the facility, without knowledge of numbers and pointed out that in 2016 only 18 overseas players were invited to Samoa for the final trial while 50 were invited this year.

The SRU said this gave false expectations to many families and made it hard to co-ordinate the programme as there were often last minute changes.

The union said players were monitored daily and had access to medical staff but unfortunately Leota did not take advice from the staff.

Leota was also said to have belittled players during team meetings, causing some to be upset and families became prepared to withdraw them from the team.

Lolesio's family also alleged their son had returned from the Oceania Championships and not been fed for two days.

The union said there was some miscommunication and they were not aware of the number of players returning to stay at the HPU facilities.

The SRU had been informed that the team had met and decided that no players would be staying at the HPU over the Mother's Day weekend.

However four players had in fact tried to stay at the HPU that was closed for the long weekend.

Meals were not organised but the SRU said senior management visited the HPU out of concern and arranged meals immediately.

It was then that Leota was replaced by former Manu Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger

The SRU said there was an immediate change in the attitude of the team and communication and planning improved.

As for concerns about medical treatment, the union supported comments by Schwalger that a number of players presented with boils over time but this was more a case of personal hygiene and covering them to prevent infection spreading.

The union said treatment was provided and advice was given.

The SRU also criticises the Lolesios' letter for failing to mention their personal connection to the past coach, JP Leota.

It also pointed out that in correspondence after Lolesio had been dropped from the team, did not include any complaints but did offer his services to the team if needed.

The union will now be undertaking a campaign and staff review.

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Samoa met Australia at the Oceania Championships Photo: Oceania Rugby / Sportography

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