Former captain Willie Poching has backed controversial Samoa coach Matt Parish despite being turned away from their training base last month.
Poching was invited to Samoa’s World Cup training headquarters by the organisation’s chairman, but suffered the humiliation of being turned away on arrival.
Parish has been keen to protect his players from the media all tournament, having been upset by some of the reporting since their heavy opening-day defeat to England.
But speaking exclusively to Love Rugby League ahead of the big semi-final rematch, Poching insists he remains fully behind his nation.
“It came down to a little bit of a misunderstanding. I got an invite from the chairman to go and watch the team train, but was turned away,” he said.
“The coach rang me and apologised to his credit. He apologised that he didn’t know who I was. He thought I was a media person and he didn’t want a reporter at the training session, which I understand. Not only did he ring me, he asked me to meet him. I shook his hand after the Greece game and accepted his apology for the mistake that was made.
“Was I disappointed coming away from it? Yes, very much so, I was hurt in the moment. But what didn’t change was my support for my team and the boys.”
Willie Poching: There is an element of protection
Parish has been prickly with the media throughout the World Cup. Much like Wayne Bennett, or Brian McDermott, engaging with the press is the part of the job he would be happy to lose.
He gave a cold and minimal press conference after his side’s heroic quarter-final win over Tonga, before Samoa’s jubilant players all left the ground on Sunday night without speaking to the waiting media – presumably as instructed by their head coach.
The previous week following their final group win over France, Parish asked journalists if they were planning to ‘write the truth this week’.
“Some coaches are like that, each to their own,” Poching explains – a coach himself of course – on the brand new Love Rugby League podcast ahead of the World Cup finals.
“Wayne Bennett doesn’t have the greatest relationship with the press either. Most of us understand the role the media plays and the importance you have in helping our game grow and spreading the word.
“He (Parish) has football games to win. I’m sure their focus was already on to the semi-final straight away. There is an element of protection. You don’t want to say something that gives them extra motivation or be taken out of context by the media or opposition. So rather than say something you regret you say nothing at all.”