The young women - two of them selected when they were only 14, but are now 15 - have been chosen for the Cook Islands Under-21 netball team to take part in the Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana in southern Africa.
Twenty youth teams from around the world have qualified to play at the tournament. The last time the Cook Islands took part was in 2009 when the fixture was held here and the local team took sixth place.
This year’s tournament will be held from July 8-16 in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana which is a landlocked country bordered by Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and for a few hundred metres only, Zambia. The netballers will need to pack their woollies because in July night time temperatures in Botswana can drop to freezing and daytime temperatures are in single digits.
But before they get to that stage, the netballers are looking for financial help to get them there. Airfares alone to and from Botswana will cost $50,000 and because the players are based in Australia, New Zealand and Rarotonga, a series of camps have been organised to bring them together for fitness and training sessions, taking the cost of mounting the campaign to $90,000.
Our netballers will get to play in a country that is about as different as you can get from our own.
Botswana is a flat country 70 per cent of which is made up of the Kalahari desert. It is everything we imagine Africa to be with teeming wildlife, elephants, lions, zebras and there are game parks and safaris where you can go and see the animals. But on a cautionary note it has the third highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world.
All the top netball-playing nations will be there including heavyweights Australia, New Zealand, England, Barbados and South Africa; along with not so well known nations like Uganda, Singapore, Malaysia, Samoa and Fiji.
The Cook Islands team is in Pool C, along with Uganda, Malaysia, Jamaica and the hosts.
Five management people will travel with the team.
Local organisers say the Cook Islands party still needs considerable financial support to get them to the games.
Says coach John Glassie: “We have had to overcome obstacles to get to the Oceania qualifiers. This has made the team a very close unit. Every player has the passion to play for their team, nation and family.
“Positivity around the team has been great. At the last camp the girls really performed well in testing which showed on the court. We are only seven weeks out and are on track to be at our best for the start of World Youths.”
If you would like to contribute you can do so on the Give a Little account https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/u21netballcookislands. You can also contact Andrea Rongokea on 54287.
The team selected to represent us includes Alex Iro who is based in Auckland but has family links to Titikaveka, Celeste Patutama Auckland/Arorangi, Chantal Tikitau Cairns/Titikaveka, Charlize-Gazelle Tumu Makara Mitiaro/Penrhyn, Daimzel Rongokea Rarotonga/Arorangi, Hinemoa Mehau Perth/Arorangi, Maria Milani Auckland/Aitutaki, Mary Tuaana Brisbane/Arorangi, Moana Glassie Brisbane/Aitutaki, Nina-Tai Roberts Auckland/Aitutaki/Mangaia, Rochelle Teiri Auckland/Arorangi, Tetania Oaariki Auckland/Arorangi.
- Derek Fox