'Angry' Samoan coach channels Malthouse

    MILANI Seaunatic fell in love with Australian rules the moment she first saw it.

In fact, she can't work out why the whole world doesn't play a game she describes as a mix of "athletics, volleyball, basketball and the two rugbies".

So passionate has her love affair become, Milani is in Melbourne as coach of the Samoan Kangaroos in the 2008 International Cup.

Yes, coach. Just like tactical guru Rodney Eade of the Western Bulldogs or Collingwood's angry mentor Mick Malthouse.

Not that trainee diving instructor Milani has based her style on either. She's her own woman in a world where men historically hold sway.

In fact, she may be the only female coach of a senior male Australian rules side in the world. Milani did admit, though, if she leans to the style of anyone, it's Malthouse.

"I spent 10 years in Australia in West Sydney and that's where I fell in love with the game because you can do things like knock on, or pretty much anything that you can't do in rugby", Milani said.

"I started barracking for Collingwood and, like Mick Malthouse, you would call me an angry coach. If I speak softly to the boys then they don't get the message, so I shout.

"Some ex-pats introduced Australian rules to our village and because I could speak English so well, I was their interpreter.

"When they left I had read a few books and kept explaining the rules, and then the next thing they made me coach."

This is her fourth year in the job after steering Samoa to fifth in the 2005 International Cup.

Her squad of 28, who also happen to include some of the finest singing voices you could wish to hear, are aiming for fourth in this year's Cup, with New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the US the clear favourites.

Today, her Kangaroos play Japan at Ransford Oval in Royal Park at 1pm. They defeated India by 110 points in Round 1 on Wednesday.

Michael Roberts, who has worked as an Australian rules development officer in Samoa, said player numbers were growing at a good rate.

"While we might only have about 300 senior players, with rugby union the dominant code, we had over 4000 kids participate in Auskick last year," he said. "The players are obviously good tacklers, but they also have wonderful agility and speed.

"And they have a really good coach in Milani. She has done a coaching course plus umpired, and the village she comes from has become the heart of Aussie rules, thanks to people like her."




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