Held at Bluesky Sports Arena during the one-day Junior Netball Tournament for the Rising Stars Netball Competition, the Sports for Health Netball programme under the Pacific Sporting Partnerships was launched.
Among the attendees was New Zealand High Commissioner Peter Marshall, who opened proceedings with an anecdote about watching his granddaughter play netball.
“About four months ago, I was in Auckland on a very cold Saturday morning and I was down at the netball courts watching my six-year-old granddaughter play for her school team,” Marshall said.
“There were about 200 young girls on this netball court. And for about 30 minutes I watched her race around the netball courts. Her and her teammates raced around like a swarm of bees chasing the ball.
“There was nothing tactical or strategic about it, and I have to tell you that they lost by about 20 points.”
What was most important to Marshall was that regardless of the result, the girls had made the decision to be active, which was better than lying in bed or watching TV.
“They weren’t wondering what they were going to do with themselves because they were learning about team work and fitness through netball, as well as disappointment in the context of the score.”
“That is an important element of going through life. What was also important was seeing how many parents were there, and how behind their children they were, through motivation and support.”
Marshall also announced the New Zealand government was committing $4 million over five years to netball in Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and the Cook Islands.
“There is nothing more important to a country than fit and healthy people as part of the population. If young people can be fit and healthy then they’ll go through adulthood being fit and healthy, and hopefully they’ll pass this down so that their children will be fit and healthy.”
He noted how difficult the modern environment could be to leading a healthy lifestyle, but said, that shouldn’t stop people from making their health the number one priority.
“This programme is about motivating people to learn the benefits of netball, to keep fit with all the support around it. It’s about equipment, about teaching coaches and getting them certification, and getting support with helping children play netball.”
Joining Marshall in the announcement was programme coordinator for Netball New Zealand Ivan Harre and former Silver Ferns player and coach Waimarama Taumaunu.
For Harre, one of the important components of the programme was making netball a priority in schools.
“We have support from the Ministry of Education, and by developing in primary schools to begin with, and we will be working with teacher and students to develop and maintain an interest early,.”
Taumanu, who is married to a Cook Islander, was brought into the project by Netball New Zealand, and spoke from a netball perspective.
“When I first came to the Cook Islands, netball was a major sport on the island. Every Saturday, a team would go to another village for the whole day, and play every age grade.
“And then on Sunday, I wanted to train some of the girls and I was told quite clearly that they wouldn’t train on a Sunday.
“My intention in this project is for all of these young women to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, to continue to participate in netball and to continue to make healthy choices as they grow older.
“I’ve been to a couple of trainings, in Tupapa and in Arorangi, and I was really impressed with the commitment that’s going on, the coaching, and the dedication of the parents. And the general positive feelings that comes from being in a team, and enjoying oneself.
“My hope is that each time I come back, I’ll be seeing more and more young girls playing for teams and more coaches involved.”