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Tom Maiava’s incredible journey from Sydney F45 coach to Hong Kong Sevens

By Finn Morton
Samoa’s Tom Maiava in a trainingSamoa’s Tom Maiava in a training match against Fiji. Picture: World Rugby.

Samoa’s Tom Maiava dropped his head as Spain kicked the ball into touch on Friday morning. With the SVNS Series’ 10th-placed side claiming a thrilling 17-14 win over one of their bottom-four rivals, it was a moment that could have huge ramifications for both teams.

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Walking as one down towards the tunnel at the world-famous Hong Kong Stadium, you could see how much the pain of defeat hurt. With South Africa and Ireland still to play in Pool C, that was a match that both Samoa and Spain needed to win.

But after stopping for a few minutes to chat about the match, Samoa playmaker Tom Maiava let out a smile. After debuting in Perth a couple of months ago, the SVNS Series rookie was playing at the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens for the first time.

From that perspective, it’s a feel-good rugby story, but there’s much more to this tale. For Tom Maiava, playing for Samoa at the spiritual home of the sport is another significant milestone in the former F45 coach’s journey to international rugby.

There are more than 7,300 kilometres between Hong Kong China and Sydney. After moving across the ditch from New Zealand, Maiava calls Sydney’s eastern suburbs home and has experience as an F45 gym coach.

“Coogee is my home,” Maiava told RugbyPass at Hong Kong Stadium. “I moved to Australia from New Zealand, moved over to Randwick, great club down there – up the wicks!

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“Transitioned to working at F45. Great man (former Wallaby) Stephen Hoiles runs the place… just chipping along.

“This opportunity appeared after my time was done… managed to move into Samoa and make it happen. Good to be here.”

Maiava began playing for Randwick in New South Wales’ Shute Shield competition before going on to wear Samoa’s iconic blue strip at the 2023 Pacific Games, and later the SVNS Series.

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The Samoa international has impressed so far and was on the field as the game clock ticked closer to full-time against Spain on Friday morning. Samoa did what they could but it wasn’t to be in the end.

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Spain had an attacking scrum feed with about 18 seconds left on the clock, and as time continued to tick by, it seemed that the Samoan’s fate was sealed. The Spanish pushed back against a strong surge at the scrum to win both the feed and match.

With just two tournaments to go until the Grand Final event – and that includes this weekend’s tournament at the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens – time, much like in their loss to Spain, is running out for Samoa.

“It’s always disappointing losing to any team,” Maiava explained. “When you work so hard and just those little skills at the end cost us.

“Heaps of room for improvement, obviously it’s a long tournament, anything can happen. Just looking to pick ourselves back up, regroup and go again.

“We talked about how crucial that result was for us so to lose like that, obviously it dims out lights a bit.

“But again, we can’t sit around for too long and sulk and stuff. (We’ll) get ready for the next game against Ireland. Obviously a good team. Just fix those things and hopefully come away with a win.”

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