It’s not just Rabbitohs players taking part in Representative Round, with Club NYC (under 20s) Coach, and former Rabbitoh, David Penna, lending a hand to TOA Samoa as Assistant Coach in the Pacific team’s preparations to take on Tonga this Saturday at Pirtek Stadium.
Season 2016 marks the third year that Penna has assisted the Samoan outfit. And while not a drop of Samoan blood courses through his veins, the former first-grader feels a special connection with the proud island-nation.
“You realise pretty quickly what representing Samoa means to these players, and it’s very special for me too,” said Penna speaking to Rabbitohs.com.au.
“Last year when we played Tonga – you have no idea how big the passion and the hits were. The quality is so high and the physicality has to be seen to be believed. It’s like their own State of Origin in a lot of ways.
“But the cultural experience is massive too – especially for someone like myself who isn’t part of that community. I think it brings great attention to the diversity we have in our game.
“Every television in Samoa will be tuned into this game this weekend, and the fans out there at Parra – believe me, it’ll be something special.
“We have things like the fan days, and you get such a strong and passionate turn-out. Samoan’s are a proud people who love their Rugby League, and that’ll definitely be on display come Saturday.”
Penna isn’t the only Rabbitohs representative in Samoan camp, with Club centre, Kirisome Auva’a, set to make his Test debut in the centres.
“It’s ‘Sommi’s’ first camp and he’s enjoyed every minute of it,” said Penn, who played 56 games for the Rabbitohs during the 1990s.
“Again, it’ll be a huge moment for him. He’ll start in the centres and do his job for the team. The preparations are moving along really well.
“It’s fun times! It’s training, music, a lot of praying – the boys are very spiritual – and like any other footy camp, lots of banter between the boys.”
A total of seven Rabbitohs players will take their place in various representative teams this weekend, including: Greg Inglis (Australia), Kirisome Auva’a (Samoa), Michael Oldfield (Tonga), Tevita Cottrell (Fiji), Aaron Gray, Nathan Brown (City), and Siosifa Talakai (Junior Kiwis).
The Pacific Test between Tonga and Samoa will take place this Saturday, 7 May, at Pirtek Stadium with kick-off slated for 7:40pm.