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Our golden stars of the netball court

Saturday July 20, 2019 Written by Published in Netball
Cook Islands netball players with their Pacific Games gold medals after the 44-43 win over Tonga on Thursday night. 19071937 Cook Islands netball players with their Pacific Games gold medals after the 44-43 win over Tonga on Thursday night. 19071937

COOK ISLANDS netball has entered a new golden era, after a thrilling victory in the gold medal final on Thursday night, breaking their 28-year long Pacific Games drought.

“It was a beautiful game of netball, played by two extremely talented Pacific teams,” says the team's coach Anna Andrews-Tasola.

It was a game for the ages, with the Cook Islanders forced to fight tooth and nail against Tonga for a come-from-behind victory. Making the gold medal final was a feat in itself for the Cook Islanders, who haven't competed for gold at the Pacific Games since the 1991 Papua New Guinea Games.

It is only the third time the Cook Islands have won the netball competition at the Pacific Games, with the first victory coming at the 1966 Games, held in New Caledonia. A vast majority of those involved in Thursday night's win were not even born at that time.

However, the team has now secured its own place in the history books, competing in what will be remembered as one of the most thrilling Pacific Games netball finals of all time.

It was a worrying start to the final for the Cook Islanders, who found themselves down 0-3 not long into the match.

Tonga continued to find their imposing lanky goal shooter Uneeq Palavi, who kept finding the net to put her team up 13-11 by the end of the first quarter.

The Cook Islanders came out firing after the first break, their strong defence forcing Palavi towards the outer edges of the goal circle. However, she continued to make her opportunities count and was aided by some strong defence down the other end from her Tongan teammates. Tonga leading 26-22 at halftime.

A brilliant interception by wing attack Alex Iro led to a goal that brought the Cook Islanders within one of a determined Tongan outfit in the opening minutes of the second spell. The national team soon equalled the scores and by the end of the third quarter, it was anyone’s game.

Both teams were visibly feeling the pressure, missing easy goals and making fundamental errors. However, the Cook Islands managed to compose themselves, finally taking the lead for the first time in the match. Tonga clawed back, drawing the game and forcing the Cook Islands to fight with everything they had.

With only seconds left on the clock, Alanna Smith, who has been a standout all tournament long, managed to score a goal, putting the Cook Islands up by one and causing scenes of excitement amongst her teammates and supporters. That would be the final goal of the match, the Cook Islands walking away 44-43 winners and Pacific Games gold medallists.

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