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Netball calls for unity and community support to elevate the sport

Saturday 2 December 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Pacific Games 2023, Sports

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Netball calls for unity and community support to elevate the sport
Netball Cook Islands enjoy their meal at the game village in Honiara. SUPPLIED / 23120308

Cook Islands netball team finished fifth at the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

The team defeated Norfolk Islands 59-26 on Thursday in the fifth-place playoff.

Team manager secretary Tekura Moekaa expressed gratitude for the experience despite the team’s challenging journey.

Moekaa said the top four teams have been working together for years, emphasising Cook Islands’ pride in their placement and the valuable experience gained.

“In a tough Pacific Games campaign, the Netball Cook Islands team found themselves out of medal contention after facing formidable opponents in Tonga and PNG. Despite heavy losses, we were determined to get 5th place.”

Young shooter Maya Piakura since Singapore has earned the goal shooter bib with a calm and collective approach.

Moeka’a said that with much more game time and experience she would definitely be a force to be reckoned with.

“With our defence unit - and less than 25 caps between the five defenders they stepped up in every corner of the defence unit - picking up intercepts and tips and fiercely showing up.

“Nicol Tiaore played all games despite an injury. Rachel Tuaputa, who started as a centre as we started the campaigns moved into wing defence (WD) in Singapore solidifying her place in WD with her ability to continuously shut the playmakers out and drive out on attack.

“With experienced players like Curly Taripo, Alanna, Mati and Rochelle Teiri - we had an experienced attack side who was able to lead the attack side and provide guidance and leadership. Taripo registered her 50th Cap against Papua New Guinea.”

Moekaa said they played a formidable Norfolk Islands side in the playoffs. “Participating in a fierce competition with nine Pacific Nations vying for the top three spots, the Cook Islands team reflects on their journey, aspiring to reach the level they attained two decades ago.

“Back then, netball was played by only a few countries, and today, it has become a global sport with teams continuously improving.

“The current team is predominantly local-based, with 90 per cent of the players hailing from the Cook Islands, symbolising a rebuilding phase. The acknowledgement of the talent pools in New Zealand and Australia emphasises the interconnectedness of the netball community.”

The team has extended their gratitude to local sponsors, particularly Onu and Netball Cook Islands, as well as players, families, and donors who contributed significantly to their fundraisers.

“It’s worth noting that local sponsors fund most, if not all, of the tournaments attended by the Cook Islands team, including the financial support for New Zealand and Australian players in past campaigns.”

Moeka’a addressed the external criticism faced by the team and challenged detractors to take tangible action by stepping up, offering solutions, providing funding, or taking on roles when advertised, emphasising the need for concrete support rather than mere criticism.

“It’s a call to action for the community to actively contribute to the growth of netball in the Cook Islands.”

The team returns to Rarotonga on Monday.