Bree Lee Lo, June Enele, Lemoe Eneliko and Moira Nemaia pose for a photo taken by Alexandra and Barron Nemaia. All were on hand to celebrate Samoa’s Rugby League World Cup run. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Bree Lee Lo, June Enele, Lemoe Eneliko and Moira Nemaia pose for a photo taken by Alexandra and Barron Nemaia. All were on hand to celebrate Samoa’s Rugby League World Cup run. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Local rugby fans celebrate Samoa’s World Cup run

“Win our lose, we’re still proud.”

Samoa fell short of of a Rugby League World Cup title, but you wouldn’t know it from the Saturday morning scene in the parking lot of a popular Mendenhall Valley trail.

Rugby fans celebrate Samoa’s Rugby League World Cup run that ended Saturday with a loss to Australia in the finals. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Rugby fans celebrate Samoa’s Rugby League World Cup run that ended Saturday with a loss to Australia in the finals. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Dozens of rugby fans gathered near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as the Brotherhood Bridge Trail, around 9 a.m., before joining a vehicle procession around Juneau to celebrate Samoa’s first-ever appearance in the World Cup finals. Flag waving, cheering and staccato horn blasts marked the occasion.

Vehicles line up for a celebratory procession following Samoa’s Rugby League World Cup run that ended with a loss to Australia in the finals. The tournament marked Samoa’s first-ever appearance in the finals, and fans said they were proud regardless of the outcome. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Vehicles line up for a celebratory procession following Samoa’s Rugby League World Cup run that ended with a loss to Australia in the finals. The tournament marked Samoa’s first-ever appearance in the finals, and fans said they were proud regardless of the outcome. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

“We’re always fans no matter where we go,” said Jan Enele, who has lived in Juneau for 11 years. “It’s a proud moment for us.”

Enele was one of about 40 people who joined the celebration and among the first to arrive.

Frances Vase was another early arrival. Vase said she and others watched the game, which Australia won 30-10, via a stream online and noted the event was open to the broader Juneau Polynesian community, not just people of Samoan descent.

Like Enele —and the dozens of exuberant attendees —Vase said the outcome of the game did not diminish pride in what British newspaper the Guardian described as “an unforgettable tournament.”

“Win our lose, we’re still proud,” Vase said.

Dozens of fans celebrate Samoa’s unprecedented Rugby League World Cup finals appearance Saturday in the Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as the Brotherhood Bridge Trail, parking lot ahead of a procession around Juneau. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Dozens of fans celebrate Samoa’s unprecedented Rugby League World Cup finals appearance Saturday in the Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as the Brotherhood Bridge Trail, parking lot ahead of a procession around Juneau. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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