Rise Toa Samoa! One amazing stat from the NRL Grand Final was the combined 10 Samoan heritage players across both squads. Mindblowing that a tiny Pacific island chain & diaspora can produce such excellence including the brilliant winning try from Stephen Crichton.
The Samoans (and wider Polynesians) were once the most extraordinary ocean navigators who conquered the Pacific Ocean, one third of the world’s surface, seeking out, locating and colonising every habitable island in the ocean as far away as Hawaii, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island), thousands of kilometres away on the outer edge of ‘The Polynesian Triangle’.
They could sail into the wind with their double hulled canoes and would explore the Pacific Ocean like a highway using their ancient knowledge of the environment.
They understood the seasonal changing of wind directions, different types of birds and their flying range from land, how to treat different currents like river systems, how to read cloud shades and navigate by the stars, the sun and the moon. All the stars had names and featured in songs.
When explorer Captain Cook arrived at Tahiti, he was shocked to find a people who had mastered open ocean navigation without compass or instruments, millennia before European navigators were brave enough to break away from the shorelines of Europe, Asia and Africa.
Cook marvelled at how his Tahitian navigator Tupaia could at any time know the precise direction of Tahiti without a compass. It was Tupaia who taught Cook how to use the prevailing winds to his advantage.
After colonisation these skills were largely lost, but a new Pacific Revolution is happening in contact sport in which they are having a huge impact in all major field-based contact sports including rugby league, rugby union and American football and extends into boxing, mixed martial arts, and professional wrestling.
These sporting successes have been fuelled by migration to improve economic, educational and social outcomes and have driven a significant remittance industry with money from sporting incomes sent home to crucially improve lives of athlete families still living on their ancestral Pacific islands.
They have brought excellence, exuberance and a Polynesian flavour to rugby league which was in full bloom in the Grand Final.
Faʻafetai for your contribution to the game!
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