Last year the weekly competition had teams competing in the Rising Stars 17 and under, and 21-and-under grades, but this has been upgraded to four grades this year to cover a broader range of netball interest.
They include Future Stars 12U, Shooting Stars 20+, Rising Stars 15U and Rising Stars 19U.
The Shooting Stars grade was put in to cater for the local-based netballers recently selected for the Cook Islands national squad to give them more court time to improve their skills before the final selection in September.
They include Alanna Smith, Daimzel Rongokea, Elena Mataora, Luciana Nicholas, Natalia Short, and Phillipa Smith.
The Rising Stars tournament was born out of the belief to help develop local sporting talent especially in the junior level, promoting a healthier lifestyle through sport as well as promoting community cohesiveness by taking games back to the outdoor community courts to build grassroots support.
With major sponsors Bank of the Cook Islands and Bluesky and various other sponsors believing in their vision, local business owners Teina and Jackie Rongo of Rongohiva were able to get this off the ground last year along with the support of various netball individuals.
Of special mention is longtime netball advocates, Tai Manavaroa and Mii Maui, who rallied the Rarotonga Netball Centre and Netball Cook Islands to support this idea within a short amount of time after the domestic season finished last year.
Of the 11 teams who competed in Rising Stars 2016, the Arorangi Flames took out first place in both the 17U and 21U divisions, taking home a total of $6000 in cash prizes and trophies.
After the tournament, the Rising Stars All-Tournament selections continued under the Flames management to the Netball in Paradise tournament in December, which saw the girls take out first place in the U17 division over international teams.
The Rising Stars executive team this year consists of passionate volunteers Kopu Anguna (tournament coordinator), Elizabeth Tommy (marketing manager), Gloria Tinirau (secretary), Itinga Nicholas (treasurer), and Elizabeth Tou (competition manager), who join tournament directors Jackie and Teina Rongo in their excitement to present the tournament once again.
Lifting netball skills from village club level to international standards is the key to the Rising Stars Netball Championship.
“Taking a line from the movie Field of Dreams….if you build it, they will come. This, in essence, is what we hope the Rising Stars tournament will be, a catalyst to attract and inspire our future netball players for the Cook Islands, with support from our entire community,” Jackie said.
“We do this bearing in mind our U21 team is currently preparing for the World Championships in Botswana in July, paving the international pathway for our local-based players here. We need to bridge our domestic and international efforts going forward.”
The tournament scheduled to be staged over 13 weeks, will run side-by-side with the Cook Islands rugby union season.
Netball draws will follow rugby union so supporters can enjoy both codes at the same venue, as it was in the past.
With a revised format set to feature in this year’s competition, there are 24 potential slots to be filled across the four grades for the six clubs on Rarotonga: Arorangi Flames, Avatiu Dragonflies, Ngatangiia-Matavera SeaGalz, Takuvaine Red Angels, Titikaveka Pearls, and Tupapa Panthers.
While most slots are filled, there may be a few slots available in each grade.
The Rising Stars Netball Championship would not be possible without the support and belief in this vision from sponsors, and organisers would like to acknowledge platinum sponsors Bank of the Cook Islands and Bluesky, gold sponsor Rongohiva, parau pearl sponsors Ministry of Health, Hori Signs, and Varo Media and pipi pearl sponsors CITC, Rehab Rarotonga, Kuki Tag Adventures, Palm Grove, and CIPS, and Superstar Sponsors Ariki Adventures, Bounty Bookshop, Captain Tamas, Charlies Paddleboard, Cocoputt, Cook Islands Tourism, Island Craft, KiteSUP, Matman, Ministry of Cultural Development, Netball Cook Islands, Punanga Nui, T&M Heather, The Rarotongan, and Turamatuitui Bakery.
The 2017 Rising Stars Netball Championship will start with an opening ceremony this Friday at the Punanga Nui.
“It is a netball carnival/night market theme with vendors, and we encourage all members of the community to join us for a fun family night out and also to honour sponsors and players alike,” Jackie said.