First Woman Manager of Samoa 7s Brought the Best out of Players



Marina Schaffhausen was the first woman who has both coached and managed a mens rugby 7s side and her passing earlier this week has brought on a flood of social media tributes to remember the Iron Lady of Samoa Rugby.

Remembered as a a tough but loving rugby administrator by all players and of her era, Marina passed away peacefully in New Zealand at the age of 83, and her impact on rugby was evident during an intimate family service held in her honor at the Henderson funeral home.

Former Rugby internationals attending Marina’s Family Service in Auckland

With COVID-19 restrictions, only one hour was permitted and a limited number of people allowed, but the line-up of former rugby greats in attendance included Michael Jones, Brian Lima, Danny Kaleopa, Andy Aiolupo, Too Vaega, Junior Tonuu, Vaa Vitale, Kalolo Toleafoa, Pasikale Faoagali, Saito Sililoto, Danny Leaupepe, and Mataio Leupolu.

Marina Schaffhausen was the first and remains the only woman who has managed the Samoa men’s international rugby 7’s side. She took on various administrative roles for her Moataa Rugby Club including that of both Coach and Manager.

Marina Schafhausen on tour with the Samoa Rugby 7s side.

Marina entered the Samoa rugby scene in 1988 and one year later in 1989, she took up the role as the Samoa Rugby 7s Manager, with Taufusi Salesa as Coach/Player. This arrangement, with “Stau” still a player meant that Marina played a leading role as the key administrator on tour.

Former Manu Samoa and Moataa rugby legend Fainuulelei Pauli Filipo Saena recalls, “I remember Marina was sharing the workload with Taufusi. She was also the team psychologist, doing a lot of work on the players’ mental side,” he recalls.

Saena recalls that Marina led Moataa to win several National 7’s titles including the Marist International 7s and in 1993, she is most remembered as the glue who kept Samoa 7’s together during the famous victory in Hong Kong.

The 1993 Hong Kong 7s Cup with Seiuli Paul Wallwork and Misa Telefoni. PC Filipo Saena.

At her family service this week, Great All Black (GAB) and Moataa Rugby legend Michael Jones spoke on behalf of the players present.

Sir Michael Niko Jones spoke of a strong woman, who pushed and encouraged players with love.

Photos from Filipo Saenas library of rugby archives.

Speaking with Brian Lima, Muliagatele described the Iron Lady as a tough but loving manager and coach, who brought the best out of her players, both on and off the field.

“We remember Marina as a hard woman who always pushed us to become the best version of ourself as players,” said the rugby Hall of Famer.

Lima shared that Marina changed many players’ lives and always put God first. He recalls that Marina made it compulsory for all players to take their bible and hymn book on tour. He also speaks about Marina’s focus on player’s psychological and mental stability.

“Toatele tama taaalo sa suia mai latou olaga i fautuaga ma tuualalo a Marina; ae maise le faamuamua o Le Atua;

“Toatele o tama taaalo e o atu e leiloa fai se lotu ma se tatalo, ae uma mai se taamilosaga ua iloa fai le tatalo. Soo se taimi lava e malaga ai le au taitoafitu, e muamua lava faamanatu mai e Marina, le Tusi Paia ma le Tusi Pese ia aua nei galo”.

Brian Lima said Marina had one golden rule for the rugby field, and that was to be fearless.

“Marina forbid fear, she wanted all her players to be strong and courageous”.

“E matuai faasa lava e Marina ona e palaai, e unai mai lava e Marina tama taaalo, ina ia e faamalosi ma toa lou loto,” said the Chiropractor.

Brian Lima recalls the 1993 Hong Kong 7s triumph and credits Marina as the key that held the team together.

“I still recall that 1993 tournament, in the way Marina encouraged us before each match. She told us that losing to New Zealand and Fiji was just not an option”.

“E telē le galuega a Marina sa fai i lona fautua mai ma faamalosi mai ia matou tama taaalo – ina ia aua lava nei matou toilalo ia Niu Sila ma Fiti.”

Fainuulelei Filipo Saena took to social media to express his sadness for the passing of his former manager and mentor.

“Faafetai tele mo mea lelei uma sa e faia mo le Lakapi a Moata’a aemaise Samoa. Ia manuia lau malaga aunty Marina.” Saena wrote.

Marina with the Moataa team after a Marist International 7s tournament. PC Filipo Saena.

Saena has described Schaffhausen as the cornerstone of Moataa and Samoa Rugby whose strength was to unite the team. He has also shared many of his old photos with us for this article.

“She treated all of us, the rugby players, the team, and everyone at the club, as one of her own… It was her love that brought us together, and to play together as one.” Saena said.

“She was a very successful manager; .e ote but deep down she wanted the team to be successful and then of course, she created history. E loto alofa ma loto fesoasoani faa-tina, i soo se tasi,” Saena added.

Marina’s eldest daughter Wendy Faapoi spoke at the family service, but two of Marina’s sons were still in compulsory isolation and could not attend.

Brian Telefoni