Rugby league: Stronger Pasifika influence needed at administrative level, says Duane Mann

One of the most respected voices in Pacific Islands rugby league has thrown his voice behind the call for more Pasifika people in administration roles. 

As the playing population of Māori and Pasifika in the NRL continues to grow, Phil Gould's new role with NZ Warriors is expected to help those players flourish.  

Tonga's recent wins over the Kiwis, Kangaroos and Great Britain have shone a light on the potential of island nations in rugby league. 

The talent can be clearly seen and now there are growing calls for more diversity at the top level.

"Sometimes our friends in Australia...what's important to them isn't important to us," former Tonga and Kiwis captain Duane Mann tells Newshub.

"You need to have that representation at governance level that reflects the broad base of the Pasifika footprint."

Sonny Bill Williams laid down the challenge to Gould, who's been appointed as a consultant for the Warriors.

And with more Māori, Indigenous and Pasifika players in the NRL than ever before, their voices need to be heard at the top level.

"In the players association, there really isn't a strong voice there, I think, from a Pasikifa aspect," Mann adds.

"There’s a role to play for those that are looking to advance the game with Pasifika [people] and those with the mandate to grow the game in New Zealand, that they keep an eye on that and have it as a priority."

Geoff Brown of Rugby League Samoa believes a collective approach is needed to prevent homegrown talent leaving in their droves each year. 

"There are over 100 kids a year who leave to pursue a career in rugby league in Australia," Brown says.   

In 2014, Brown took a group of Samoan players on a tour to Australia, visiting several NRL clubs including the Panthers, Sharks and Bulldogs. 

In 2014, Brown took a group of Samoan prospects to Australia to showcase Pacific Islands talent.
In 2014, Brown took a group of Samoan prospects to Australia to showcase Pacific Islands talent. Photo credit: Supplied

He says the clubs were impressed with the talent and prowess of the athletes. 

"We visited Penrith, and they had a very strong base and very high standards. We met with Trent Barrett, who was coaching there at the time.

"Three or four of our boys were approached to be signed."

Gould hopes to build the foundation to better develop and look after Pasifika players, and keep them in New Zealand.

"We need the Pacific Islands to be nurtured, and looked after and interested," Gould says. "There's a bigger demand for talent here than just playing talent."

Brown says Gould has seen the level of prospects on offer in the Islands firsthand, as well as the many challenges they face.

"He’s also spent time on the island [Samoa] looking around," Brown adds. "I'm sure he was probably impressed with some of the young talent.

"They’re very limited with resources and infrastructure.

"Collectively, I think it's important for everybody to work together. It's a no-brainer for our governing body in Samoa."

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