Australia and American Samoa will make Gridiron history on Saturday, February 25, when the two nations meet at the Junior Oceania Bowl 2012 on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
It will mark the first time American Samoa has entered an IFAF (International Federation of American Football) competition since becoming full IFAF members in 2010.
The two rivals, who have met twice before at Under-19 level, will clash at the Runaway Bay Sports Centre on Saturday, with the winner qualifying for the 2012 IFAF Under 19 World Championship as Oceania’s representative.
Head coach PETER TOS will lead Australia while American Samoa is under the guidance of POOCH TAASE, who recently coached with the IFAF World Team in its monumental International Bowl victory over the U.S. Under 19 National Team in Austin, Texas. Both teams have been conducting training camps in Australia since February 18.
Drawing members from all six member states, some coaches and players travelled from as far away as Perth, West Australia some 4,500 kilometers away from Australia’s Gold Coast Training Camp.
Despite the long trek most of the Outback players have made to live their dream, the team has settled in quickly with the first day’s practice session kicking off only a few hours after the team checked in on Saturday.
Coach Tos is happy with the way his young charges have adapted so far to all the challenges of being a national representative player in Australia and is quietly confident his team can notch their first ever win over American Samoa and earn a place in the Under 19 World Championship. Three years ago Australia lost out at this stage to rivals New Zealand.
“We’ve been building up to this camp for the last two years with skills camps and trial games held around Australia,” said Tos. “It is not easy to put together a National Team in a big country like Australia, but these kids have worked hard to get here. This is definitely the best U-19 team we have ever produced’.
Coach Taase is assisted by head coaches from each of the high schools in American Samoa: Samoa Samoa, Mataese Samuelu, Pati Pati, Kevin Magalei, Ina Sitagata, Filo Langkile and Ena Meafou. The American Samoa team is made up of 40 players from all seven high schools in American Samoa.
American Samoa hosted Australia in two ‘friendly’ Test Matches in 2009 and 2010, winning both games. This time, Australia is host for the IFAF U-19 World Championship qualification game and American Samoa has journeyed the 4,000 km west to the Gold Coast for the first time ever.
Coach Tos believes the home field advantage could give Australia the edge needs to win and added: “It is a big trip, probably their first big trip as a team, to an unfamiliar country, a couple of time zone changes, and with only a few days to acclimatise before they have to play. That’s a tough ask, even for a quality team like American Samoa.”
The game between Australia and American Samoa will be played at the Runaway Bay Super Sports Centre and kicks off at 4pm (AEST) on Saturday, 25 February, which is 7pm on Friday, February 24 in Pago Pago, American Samoa, 10pm on Friday U.S. PST, 1am Saturday U.S. EST, and 6am on Saturday in London.