It is all go in Samoa.
Samoa is a little Pacific Nation with a lot for international rugby, they have given so much and for woman’s rugby they laid on the hospitality.
The latest test match in Samoa was a very important affair, on the line was a spot in the woman’s RWC in England the Samoa knew it was a big day so they pulled out all the tricks. The Samoan Rugby Union stopped at nothing to make the match a festival and they even got the NZ army involved.
The beauty of the Islands is friends, friends of friends & relatives all become allies in everything you do. The test match had 2 curtain raisers that saw the first ever provincial rugby matches for woman on Samoan soil, they had the next singing stars performing to the crowd and the festive feeling was all around the test match awaiting the big test.
About 8 mins before kickoff there was a piercing sound in the air, the Wallaroos must have been thinking what the heck is happening here.. Swooping over the test ground in MASH like style was a black hawk helicopter, they did a surveillance glance and turned to land on halfway. Moments later 2 of the Manisina reserves gleaming with joy walked out from the beast of a chopper to deliver the match trophy. Now these girls were on fire with the experience and so too was the eager crowd moments away from kickoff.
We then saw a cracker of a test match with a skill factor to rival any men’s match in the land, from here things just got bigger.
Australia’s Debby Hodgkinson was named the IRB Women’s Personality of the Year 2009 in association with Emirates Airline. To hand over the trophy was Samoa’s own rugby legend Brain Lima, he has been to 5 consecutive world cups and an award this big could not have come from a bigger person in Samoa eyes.
This award was top secret until the last second and upon the announcement Debbie’s entire team broke into joyous celebration for their teammate. Debbie was shell shocked and walked through a salute of the Wallaroos arms on the way up to receive the award. In a genuine scene of the good person can be a great rugby player, Debbie oozes all the attributes of a quality person on and off the field, seeing her fellow players being so happy for her just cemented this fact.
In her acceptance speech Debbie paid tribute to the late Shawn Mackay, she said “He started a culture in our team, it began right here in Samoa for the Oceania Sevens last year, now we can go on with it to win the World Cup in England”.
The 28-year-old helped Australia to victory in the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai, starting all six matches and scoring seven tries, including a scintillating score in a dramatic final victory over New Zealand.
Hodgkinson’s blistering runs, strong offloading game and ability to unlock opposition defences were the outstanding qualities that saw her claim the coveted Award amongst fierce competition in what was a truly exciting Women’s tournament, with Brazil, Spain, Uganda and China all recording victories.
“The Women’s Game was firmly positioned on the world sporting map this year with the introduction of the spectacular Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“A strong feature of the groundbreaking tournament was the competitiveness of the matches, the quality of the Rugby and the emergence of true stars of the Women’s Game. Debby Hodgkinson is certainly one of them.”
“Her outstanding and consistent performances were a strong feature of Australia’s push to become world champions, and Debby is a deserving recipient of this prestigious award. I would like to extend my congratulations to her on behalf of the International Rugby Board,” added Lapasset.
John O’Neill, Managing Director and CEO, Australian Rugby Union, expressed his delight at Debby’s award: “The ARU is delighted for Debby. Her achievements in the Women’s Game and her contribution over a considerable period of time make her a thoroughly deserving recipient of this prestigious IRB award.”
“I had the pleasure of being in Dubai when the Australian Women’s team won the IRB World Cup Sevens this year and Debby, as a significant force throughout, was named the Female Player of the Tournament. Her powerful running has been a feature of the Sevens team and of the Wallaroos side since making her debut for Australia in 2002.”
Hodgkinson follows in the footsteps of leading administrator Carol Isherwood, who scooped the Award in 2008, and is the first Australian to receive the Award. Other recipients of the prestigious award include three-time World Cup winner Farah Palmer of New Zealand, Donna Kennedy, capped more than 100 times by Scotland, and England’s Maggie Alphonsi.
Previous Winners are:
2001 - Shelley Rae
2002 - Monique Hirovanaa
2003 - Kathy Flores
2004 - Donna Kennedy
2005 - Farah Palmer
2006 - Margaret Alphonsi
2007 - Sarah Corrigan
2008 - Carol Isherwood