As Leala Tiatia and Tupa’i Avala chanted ‘Samoa We’re On” in celebration of their gold medal win in the men’s lawn bowling pairs, among the cheering local fans was one Howard Sandler.
His soft chant was a repeated ‘wow’.
Sandler is the special kiwi adviser, coaching consultant and mentor to Team Samoa Lawn Bowling, with a wealth of international experience in lawn bowling to pass on.
When the men’s pair stepped up against their Fijian opponents for the gold medal clash, his silent prayer was for the Samoans to stay with the game plan.
“The Fijian pair is a very experienced side who has travelled the world and win medals in competition,” Sandler quietly explained to Newsline Samoa after the medal award ceremony.
“We had prepared well for all our games but against Fiji was our special challenge.”
The bowlers Games preparations had spread out over the year until a month ago. Sandler had set a programme of training designed to sharpen them up in the few remaining days before competition.
The kiwi adviser/mentor was on the bowling greens a week from the Games getting the bowlers to stick to the training regime that involved more than just playing practice games.
“We did a lot of skills and drills training, assessing our positions and working through the mental side of it.
“It’s not just about the technical, it’s also the mental. How to prepare for something when you’re down or up in the game and how to stick to the game plan. That is what we had to do to achieve this.”
But the game plan did not always work to what they had wanted. Mistakes were made but it became a “…learned from our mistakes” exercise, according to Sandler.
“ Going for the gold started with having to qualify for the medal round and that meant finishing up on the top three.
Leala and Tupa’i achieved their intended target and the next step was to regroup.
“Our coaching team were studying the games [by the other teams] and started to sum up the tactics needed to win.”
There are no winning secret as far as the kiwi adviser/mentor is concerned except “….a lot of training and better game plan.”
The second half of competition starts up next week and he wants to see more gold medals won by Team Samoa.
There are added factors, however, that will have to be considered as part of a winning game plan to bowl for more medals.
The draw and the teams they will play against are closely monitored as every team plays differently from one another.
“We train with that in mind, we try to put our players into the nature of our positions because each player plays differently as well.
“Some play aggressively others are very conservative. We have to work through that.”
Fiji showed their dominance by finishing on the top of the medal tally for the first half with 2 gold 1 silver and 1 bronze.
Samoa and Norfolk Islands won gold for the men’s pairs and women’s fours respectively.
Tonga, Cook Is, Niue and Tokelau won silver and bronze medals.
Team Fiji remains the team to beat in the second half of competition. Samoa’s kiwi adviser/mentor has grudgingly applauded their strength and huge international playing experience.
“Whenever you’re on the green it is a team to always contend with.”
Team Samoa bowling manager, Leao Akeripa, welcomed the gold medal win by the men’s pairs, while holding out hopes at the same time it will encourage membership in the sport.
Leao would like to see more interest from women.
‘Our women have a proven success record in competition but most of our players have passed on, we are trying to re-build by attracting more to join lawn bowling,” Leao pleaded.
He admitted that the medal chances for the women in these Games are not as strong as when they had a strong membership.
The remaining half of lawn bowling competition are in women’s pairs, women’s triples, men’s fours and men’s singles.