Festival to celebrate Samoan netball past and future
The Samoa Netball Festival held in Auckland this weekend is set to be a celebration of Samoan-New Zealander players of the past and future.
Invitations to play in Under 13, 15, 17 and 19 divisions were sent out, and eleven teams will be competing in the festival at Netball Waitakere on Saturday.
Samoan international and former Silver Fern Anna Senio is a member of the tournament organising committee.
“We sent info out to churches, school groups, clubs, anyone really that wanted to put a team forward into the festival,” she said.
“It’s a real fun celebration of Samoan netball players.
“We just wanted to encourage people from any background to give it a go, keeping it a fun environment.”
Ten of the teams competing are based in Auckland.
“We’ve got one travelling from Australia, so that’s pretty exciting,” Senio said.
That is the Under-19 side for Aute Pasifika, who also toured Samoa in June-July.
Senio said they’d like to offer places for men’s, mixed, and older age-grade divisions in future:
“Hopefully if we gain a bit more traction we’ll open up to different grades in the next few years.”
She said a key part of the initiative is trying to raise the profile of Samoan netball in Auckland, as well as New Zealand generally.
“So that our Samoan girls here in New Zealand can see that there is a pathway, if you don’t get the opportunity to represent New Zealand in netball you can still have the opportunity to represent Samoa,” Senio said.
“There’s an awesome opportunity for our future players, if they’re wanting to play for Samoa at a later stage there is that opportunity there.”
A walking netball game has been organised for midway through the day, featuring politicians, invited guests and ex-players.
“We’ll see whether that stays walking or whether they start running around.
“It’s a great idea for our present players to see our ex-players that have gone through the pathway as well, put some faces to names that the girls have heard about or read about.”
The festival takes place while Samoa is in the midst of a measles epidemic that has claimed 60 lives.
Senio said she hopes the festival might bring some joy to the Samoan community in New Zealand, who are feeling the effects of the tragedy from afar.
“It’s really sad what’s happening,” she said.
“It affects our communities here because we’re all really close, word of mouth is pretty quick.”
Auckland Samoa Netball and Netball Samoa are donating any and all proceeds from the festival to relief efforts, and a minute’s silence has been planned.
“I’ve still got my parents and my sister, my nieces and nephews in Samoa ,” Senio said.
“Talking with my mum last night, she can hear neighbouring families, she can hear the crying.”