You only have to rewind to February last year and Samoan Rugby League was in turmoil.
Star players Jarome Luai, Anthony Milford and Josh Papalii were among a group who wrote a letter to the Samoan Prime Minister requesting that Matt Parish and his coaching staff were sacked, as was first reported in the Daily Telegraph.
The letter questioned Parish’s coaching record, while also suggesting there was a lack of professionalism that would not lead to Samoa to success on the world stage – in total there was 34 current and former players who signed the document.
It read: “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.”
The then Prime Minsiter, Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, rejected the request and branded the players disrespectful, with Parish himself claiming players were “coerced” into signing the letter.
Ex-Salford Red Devils coach Parish suggested former players, who were no longer involved, had started the campaign against him and that the current players were unaware of the letter’s contents.
He 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 about the letter at the time, 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.
He continued: “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 decision at that time by Samoa’s then Prime Minister and Rugby League President have turned out to be a masterstroke given how events have unfolded in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup with Parish at the helm.
Their week one defeat by England would have caused great concern for those with power within Samoa and their rugby league team, but since then Parish has been able to guide Samoa to their first-ever World Cup semi-final, and now final.
Having avenged their opening round loss to the hosts, beating England 27-26 at the Emirates Stadium in the semis, they have become the first international Samoa team in any sport to make it to a World Cup final.
They have surpassed the achievements of Pacific rivals Tonga and Fiji to put Samoa on the map in the best possible way, and now only 80 minutes and reiging champions Australia stand in their way of the ultimate achievement.
Should Matt Parish defy the odds again and defeat the mighty Kangaroos in the final, he will become one of the most famous people in the Samoa’s history, that’s if he hasn’t already, having overcome huge adversity on a personal front to guide the team to potential world glory.