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Vice Captain of Silver Ferns visits Tonga to inspire younger generation of netball players

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa ,5/07/2018

The Tonga Netball Association, and particularly the young children taking part in their Kid Netball Program, were in high spirits yesterday as they welcomed one of the most feared shooters in world Netball – Maria Tutaia Folau, who is the vice captain of the New Zealand national team – Silver Ferns.

Maria Tutaia Folau has been a mainstay of the Silver Ferns for over a decade. Her visit is part of cooperation between Netball New Zealand and the Tonga Netball Association in further developing the sport in the country.

Yesterday morning Maria Folau participated in a special training session with the 30 children in the Tonga Netball Association’s Kids Netball Program at the BSP Netball court in downtown Nuku’alofa.

In an interview with Radio & Television Tonga News, Folau expressed her excitement to be in the Kingdom to promote netball and staying active and healthy.

I had the privilige of coming to Tonga, to promote, obviously netball, grassroots levels, throughout all levels of ages here in Tonga. But also to stay active and that netball is a really awesome game and that we really want to grow the game of netball, not just in our islands but globally as well, so we thought that Tonga was such a great island and nation who are already, as you can see over here, are getting behind it. For me it’s been really warming for me to be here because for myself, I’m a Samoan girl, I’m all for trying to do the best that we can in promoting netball as much as I can in our islands and for it’s been a great initiative for me to come here and do that,” she said.

This is Folau’s first visit to Tonga, and she said within the short time while she has been here and the programs she’s witnessed, she believes the standard of the sport in the country is very encouraging.

“I’m really surprised, I was told that there were many kids that we going to be here today, but I wasn’t expecting this many. For an island that’s so small, for me to be here and to see how much they back netball has really touched me, so I’m super excited about what else happens today. But for me here I’m just enjoying my time here with these games who love the game that I grew to love,” Folau said.

She also praised the children’s dedication and determination, evident in their short training session, and added that the immense support of the parents in pushing their children’s sports talent, was heartwarming. However financing the development of the sport needs to be better to ensure the players are given the opportunities needed for reach their full potential.

“You look at the Silver Ferns, the All Blacks, the amount of Tongans, and Samoans, and Fijians, and the islanders that have come through within those teams, we’re from here. This is our heritage. This is where our ancestors live and reside, and so a part of us, yes we represent New Zealand or other countries off-shore but our hearts are here so being able to play sport is a pathway to a future that can be however successful as you may want it to be, but also to let them know, even though we’re off-shore we’re always representing these kids here, who live here in Tonga, and in Samoa, and all of our other nations and I’m always extremely proud,” she said.

Folau also encouraged the younger netball players to keep up their training in pursuit of success in the sport.

“Me coming here and seeing this has been a huge eye-opener for me as that, the amount of kids that are here today, and how netball is so successful here, or starting to be so successful here in Tonga, we’ve really got to get behind them and push them. But also, I hate to say it, but money talks. So for me, and for the rest of our netball ambassadors out there try to promote netball as a sport, we’ve also got to get some money behind it as well. It’s been really nice that BSP bank have given us the car park for the kids to play every week,  that in itself is a huge contribution to netball. So the more that we can get banks like BSP and the people that are behind it the more successful and the more world rankings we can get with, not just Tonga, but all of our other island nations as well. If you love it, run with. Honestly, my father used to always say to me, and I’m sure everyone else has heard it, it’s really cliché. But if it’s meant to be, it’s up to me. So that means if you really want to make it happen, you’ve got to look at yourself, first and foremost. Cos many other people that’ll come on your path and tell you that you can’t or that you won’t but if you really want to do it, you’ve got to get up early and train, you’ve got to eat the right foods, you’ve got to hydrate well with water, make the right choices in life for you to be able to accomplish what you want to accomplish. But that comes from you, no one else but you,” she said.

The General Manager of Tonga Netball Association – Salote Sisifa expressed their gratitude to Maria Folau for visiting and encouraging the children and promoting the sport.

Following the special training session yesterday morning, Folau joined the Tonga Netball Association float for the Miss Heilala float parade. She also attended other programs including a visit with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Miss Galaxy netball tournament.

Maria Tutaia Folau is of Samoan descent and was born and raised in New Zealand. She plays at Goal Shoot/Goal Attack for the Silver Ferns. Last year she wed Israel Folau, who plays for the Australia national rugby team – Wallabies, and is of Tongan descent. Folau returned to New Zealand earlier this morning.

© Radio and Television Tonga News