They may be tough guys on the field but when players from the Queensland Reds Super Rugby franchise dropped by the Samoa Victim Support Group Shelters this week, it was clear they could not hide their emotions.
President of SVSG Lina Chang had explained to the Rugby stars that the children they were about to see are victims of domestic and sexual violence and abandonment.
“Because the visit was at short notice, I had to give them a quick run-down,” she says. “One they were probably not prepared for.”
She says the men were overwhelmed and saddened at what the children had been through.
“It took them a while to process it. Many were just silent. I don’t think they realized the extent of hardship that the children had experienced in their lives.
“You could feel that they [the players] were reflecting on their own good fortunes. It was certainly an eye-opening experience for them.”
The two-hour visit was soon filled with fun and games. The players, including first five-eighth Quade Cooper and loose forward Michael Gunn, enjoyed dancing and singing songs with the children, giving plenty of cuddles, chatting to staff and showing a genuine interest in knowing more about the SVSG organisation.
Subsequently, players have expressed an interest in helping SVSG in the long run.
“For some of the players, they want to come back as they felt a connection with the children. They want to be part of the extended SVSG family of supporters. This is humanity at its best.”
Lina says that this weekend, the children in the shelter had dressed up in red colours in support of their new favourite team.
The Reds were in Samoa for their Super Rugby Fixture against the Auckland Blues on Friday night.
The game stirred up controversy over the ticket prices charged, some up to 450 tala, resulting in many empty seats. It is rumoured that the prices were set by the Auckland Blues and Telecommunications company Blue Sky.
They may have not come out with the win, but the Queensland Reds won the hearts of these young Samoans and will return to Australia with cherished and meaningful memories – memories that no price could ever match.