Angry coach lashes out as Samoan players revolt
Samoan stars including Anthony Milford, Joey Leilua, Jarome Luai and Josh Papalii have taken the extraordinary step of writing to the Samoan Prime Minister seeking his intervention in having national coach Matt Parish and his coaching staff sacked.
Parish fired back on Tuesday night, claiming players were "coerced" into signing the letter.
"This is an agenda being driven by people no longer involved because they're not trustworthy," the former NSW Origin assistant said.
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The document questioned Samoa's results, Parish's coaching record and an alleged "lack of professionalism."
After initially considering the players' request, Prime Minister Tuiaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has now labelled the group's demands as disrespectful, a stance which upset some players.
In the letter, obtained by News Corp, the players - who called themselves Sailele Malielegaoi's "humble servants" - said it was with "regret" that they point out "the state of affairs currently befalling our National Rugby League team, Toa Samoa."
Other players to sign the document - which was sent to the Parliament of Samoa - include Josh Aloiai, Iosia Soliola, Tim Lafai, Dunamis Lui, Brian To'o, Jorge Taufua and Michael Chee Kam.
Former Samoan NRL players Mose Masoe, Reni Maitua, Sam Tagataese, Roy Asotasi, David Solomona, Frank and Tony Puletua, Ali Lauitiiti, Joe Galuvao, Willie Talau and Matt Utai also endorsed the letter.
Parish stressed players were unaware of the letter's contents when they signed and claimed to have the full support of his Samoan stars.
A total of 34 current and former players signed the letter which, in part, reads: "We the players, both current and past, feel compelled to undertake this extraordinary step in writing you directly to voice our concerns, and outline a course of action that we feel are necessary to place our national team in the position, we and many other renowned international observers believe it should be.
"We do this without malice, merit, or prejudice, and ask that you hear us out fairly, and make up your own mind as to how you wish to proceed with the information detailed in this letter.
"This letter is an expression of our 'Vote of No Confidence', firstly with the current Head Coach Mr. Matthew Parish, his coaching staff, and their collective abilities to lead an international rugby league football team."
The letter then focuses on a "lack of professionalismin training camps, which many NRL head coaches and International Officials, as well as players both current and past have complained about during his (Parish) tenure.
"Many of the signatories here have expressed consistent angst and disappointment at having given up so much to represent Samoa, only to be let down by the lack of professionalism in camp, incoherent strategies for training and matches, and the lack of respect Mr Parish and his staff seem to have in the recognition and conduct of our cultural practices and traditions."
A furious Parish hit back directly.
"I understand the players were asked to sign the letter unaware what was actually in the letter," Parish said.
"They were told something different. They were coerced into signed. I'm aware of the agenda and know where it's coming from. It is being driven by an agenda by people no longer involved because they're not trustworthy."
Asked whether he has the support of the players, Parish said: "That's a given. Any player I have spoken to hasn't said anything different. We have won four out of the last five Pacific Tests - including two victories over Tonga - made the quarter-finals of the last two World Cups and came third in the 2019 World Nines."
With the support of Sailele Malielegao, Parish's job is now safe heading into this year's rugby league World Cup in England.
Asked about the letter, Rugby League Samoa president Tagaloa Faafouina Su'a told News Corp: "We understand how it (player unrest) can be at times when you don't win games. You feel down. I haven't seen the letter. Even when I took it to the PM he didn't show me. He was just asking for my opinion and I told him to stick with Matt.
"We have a lot of other people who have registered their interest but Rome wasn't built in one day. The board has always had trust in Matt and his position and selections."
The letter also stated: "Since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, one has to begin to wonder why Samoa, which has fielded amazingly talented squads bolstered with recognised marquee players, is unable to achieve the same status as countries with similar demographics such as Tonga or Fiji. These two Pacific nations in particular have assembled teams with now world class status, having now achieved victories over New Zealand Kiwis and the past World champions, Australia Kangaroos.
"It is now evident that Mr. Matthew Parish is unfit to continue as the head Coach of the Samoan National Team, Toa Samoa. Parish's record speaks for itself (6 wins from 20 matches) and many of the signatories here are prepared to outline examples of the incompetency displayed over the last six years in letters privately addressed to you. We seek your assistance in ratifying his immediate removal from this position.
"The signatories have several replacement options for consideration, and at least two of the candidates are endorsed in New Zealand, Australia and England as elite head coaches. We can discuss this in more detail, should you decide in our favour."
Originally published as Angry coach lashes out as Samoan players revolt