Messam, who has played nearly 50 tests for the All Blacks, first journeyed to Rarotonga in 2002, and was so taken with the beauty of the country that it has held a special place in his heart ever since.
“The timing (for the Raro Rugby Sevens) worked out too,” Messam said, who is on a short break from his rugby season in Japan.
A member of the All Blacks team that won the World Cup, and the most capped player in the Chiefs, Messam saw the tournament as a great way to connect with Cook Islands youth.
“I’m really passionate about men’s health and keeping people active to create a positive lifestyle is a big goal.
“And there seems to be all the ingredients to a healthy lifestyle over here. There’s great produce, great weather, so to be active should be a goal for everyone.”
He will be hosting rugby clinics on Saturday (at Tupapa), as well as on Monday and Tuesday, as a way of imparting some of his knowledge to the young players who have aspirations of their own.
“It’s really great to give back to the community.”
Joining Messam is long-time rugby physio Tanya Browne, who has a history of working alongside Cook Islands rugby.
“I’ve been lucky enough to come up here for this tournament over the last couple of years, and every time I come, I get so many people who want to see me for advice or to get help,” Browne said.
“There are a lot of physios here, but they aren’t necessarily specialised in sports injuries. And while I’m no longer directly involved with the Cook Islands team, I’m still a huge supporter, so I saw it as a way of providing a bit more knowledge on these subjects.”
Browne, who is now the head physiotherapist for the Auckland Rugby International Academy, will be running clinics today and tomorrow, from 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. Entry only requires a gold coin.
She also will be available at Club Raro if people wanted to have an individual session with her. Tournament organiser Glenda Tuaine said it was vitally important that the likes of Messam and Browne were involved in the tournament, as they could provide expertise to locals, young and old.
“It’s so awesome having Liam, Taranaki flanker Pita Gus and some of these other guys coming over and running the clinics, and with Tania over here doing the physio workshops,” Tuaine said.
“It’s to try and explain to people that if you want to be a pro in sport, and you want to have a lifestyle as a sports professional, you need to be thinking about your health.”
Tuaine said that this year’s sevens had been refocused so that the emphasis would be on promoting healthy lifestyles and living.
“It’s great that these guys have jumped on board because it’s about generational education and we are trying to retrain people’s minds to make these things a focus. She also believed the nature of the tournament would bring out a greater level of skill in the competitors, which would only lead to good things for Cook Islands rugby.
“We’ve got a couple of composite teams in the tournament this year, which I think is awesome because what it does. It just shares that skill base, people rise to a level.
“So it’s exciting, especially for the women’s game, because our Cook Islands national women’s team has taken huge strides over the past few years.
“And we saw in the Black Ferns - three Cook Islanders were playing in that team, and we have real potential for our women over here to be pretty amazing sports players.”