One professional Samoan rugby team are a week away from tasting freedom after being trapped in New Zealand for more than 100 days.
Manuma Samoa, coached by Samoan legend Brian Lima, left Samoa on February 23 ahead of their first game of this season’s Global Rapid Rugby campaign on March 14 in Perth.
During the match, the Samoan government announced travel restrictions due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Anyone travelling from one of 33 countries, including Australia, were to spend two weeks in self-isolation before departing.
Having initially planned to fly home via Auckland, the team were allowed to re-enter New Zealand to complete their quarantine.
However, on March 24, Samoa announced all international travel to and from the Island by plane would cease from March 26 – just four days before the team were set to complete their quarantine.
Manuma Samoa were forced to stay at the Auckland training ground they had previously used, with all 20 players left to sleep in one room throughout the Level 4 lockdown.
“We had no privacy or anything like that,” one of the team’s players, Theodore McFarland, told BBC. “There were a few guys snoring.”
McFarland said workouts, bingo and cooking was what kept them occupied.
“We were like a family there,” McFarland said. “We’re not allowed drinks, or any of that. It’s part of our rugby culture – especially as we were staying in a church compound.”
The team’s video analyst Hari Junior Narayan told the BBC the biggest disagreement was at bingo.
“Money was involved so no-one wanted to lose,” he said.
As restrictions eased in April, players who lived locally were allowed to leave the facility, but all the Samoan-based players had no choice but to stay.
Their departure date was pushed out for weeks until they finally made the trip home on May 29.
The team have had to spend another two weeks in individual self-isolation in Samoa and are set to finally return to their homes, and families, at the end of next week.
“When we arrived in New Zealand it was summer,” Narayan said. “When we left it was winter. My daughter is four months old. The last time I saw her, she was one month, so I’ve missed a lot.
“Sometimes, we forget we even played a game.”
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