The former Samoa sevens coach Damian McGrath has fond memories of his time in charge but admits the job is intense and not for the faint-hearted.
The Englishman was fired in 2016 after the Manu 7s failed to qualify
for the Rio Olympics and a lawsuit claiming wrongful dismissal remains
But he remains the last coach to lead the team to a tournament victory on the World Series.
“For all the issues that were off the field the players were fabulous
and the people were fabulous, and my wife and I have so many happy
memories,” he said.
“In Samoa life in general was just great day to day – we loved being there. Probably the worst memory in Samoa was losing in overtime to Spain the Olympic qualifier when we were in touching distance of the Rio Olympics, and that was heartbreaking.”
His replacement as Samoa coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens, quit last month
after three and a half years in charge, with the men in blue languishing
in 13th place in the World Series.
“I had some great talks with Gordon when I was with Canada,” he said.
“We’d sit and have a coffee or just speak sometimes because I could
obviously empathise with a lot of what he was going through off the
field and on the field.”
With a passionate public hungry for success and a Prime Minister who
doubles as Chair of the Samoa Rugby Union, McGrath who is now in charge
of the German sevens team – said it was a demanding role.
“Samoa’s a pressure-cooker of a place in terms of big rugby is the
number one game in town and everything you do is front or back page news
whichever way you go,” he reflected.
“Rugby’s quite well established in Canada – it has a profile. Germany
is completely the other end of the spectrum. Whatever we do here it has
very little impact on the national media where football, handball and
basketball are very much front and centre, so we can work away without
that type of pressure.
“It’s nice to just get on with your job and not worry about anything being reported negatively every time you have a hiccup or a stumble.”