As Toa Samoa prepare to take on Fiji Bati, two proud Sea Eagles in and one token Samoan in Dunamis Lui, Jesse Sene-Lefao and Assistant Coach David Penna took time out to chat with us and let us know how their first representative camp has been.
For Jesse Sene-Lefao his first call up to the Toa Samoa side hasn’t just been about the footy,.
“It’s been good and I’ve been learning a lot about my culture that I didn’t know about, as well as enjoying simply just getting to know some of the boys who play for different NRL clubs.”
One of the players is the forward getting to know well is Sharks front-rower and his roommate Sam Tagataese.
“Sam has looked after me. He’s funny and one of the older boys in the camp and it’s good to learn from him and take his experience on board.”
It’s a similar scenario for Dunamis Lui who was paired with the St George-Illawarra Dragon’s Leeson Ah Mau, but says their both pretty quiet but funny characters.
In his first representative camp, it’s often hard to make an impression on people for the first time. But Dunamis has had a secret confidant in his corner all week…
“My uncle is actually our Chaplin here for the team which and it’s nice to have him around.” - Dunamis Lui
I’ve also got everyone from home in Queensland coming down and by the game I think there’ll be seventeen in total. I’m very luck to have that support.”
Both the boys believe their first representative camp has been made easier by the fact that Sea Eagles Assistant Coach David Penna is a part of the Toa Samoa coaching set up.
“Penna is doing a real good job with us at training and it’s good to have him there in case there is something that I don’t understand. It makes it easy to approach him,” Sene-Lefao said.
“Dave’s been really good with us and it’s good to have a familiar face around,” Lui agreed.
“I think he was a bit overwhelmed at first with all the ceremonial things we do, but he looks to be loving it.”
A sentiment that Penna affirms.
“It’s been great for me to spend some time with these boys (Jesse & Dunamis). They’ve helped me out massively,” Penna said.
“I’ve got no idea how to how to do up a ceremonial dress, so Nami helped me do that which was a huge help.”
"You only have to spend a day with these boys and their families to find out how passionate they are and how much it means to them and their fans to be representing their country and helping to grow the game they love,” he said.
It wasn’t just the wearing the ceremonial dress that the coach was asked to take part in, but also being informed he was expected to do his own Siva Samoa (ceremonial dance) in front of the group.
“It was my most nervous night in a long, long time. Everybody has to do it, get up and take their shirt off and have a dance, so it was good to get that out of the way early.”
“But, it was really humbling and you get an understanding about how everything Samoan’s do is respectful and I’ve really enjoyed my time with them.”
Asked what he thought of his coach’s efforts with his dance, Jesse jokingly suggested there may be more Polynesian in Penna than he thinks.
“I reckon by the end of the trip he’ll be Samoan! His Siva Samoa was certainly one to remember.” - Sene-Lefao.