Indigenous | Basketball

Polynesian Cup kicks off in Muriwhenua

The week-long 2022 FIBA Polynesian Cup kicked off in Kaitāia, with a spot at the Pacific Games on the line. Five teams from the Pacific Islands have been staying at local marae in the area.

Ten teams are in the Far North for the competition, five men's and five women's teams from Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, Tahiti, and the Cook Islands. For some players, it's a totally new experience.

Organiser Hilda Halkyard-Harawira says the opportunity for the Kaitāia community to watch international-level competition will have impacts in the years to come.

"The standard of competition is high among the teams, and for me, it's vital that kids get to see high-level basketball."

"The teams are staying at the marae and going to the beach. Some have had to move marae because of tangihanga. It's easier for the teams up here because it's cheaper to stay at the marae."

Marae play hosts to visiting Pasifika nations for basketball tournament.

Siale Bain-Vete, captain of the Tongan team has been enjoying the hospitality.

"We've been very excited too and we've been very appreciative of the hospitality and the warm welcome by the tangata whenua and being able to stay at the marae. A lot of us have been quite astonished at the beauty of the area."

The Tongan women's team are first-timers to international basketball, and player Kara-Lynne Enari, who lives in New Zealand, says for some of the players it's been an eye-opening experience.

"I think it was quite new for the girls from Tonga to be sharing the wharenui or just any room in general sleeping in the same room as the boys. It's different for us in New Zealand because we've grown up with that a little bit so it's not as uncommon."

FIBA rep Amanda Jenkins is excited about the tournament and its future.

"This is the second FIBA Polynesian cup. The first one was held in 2018 in Samoa, and so we're really pleased to be bringing the games here to Kaitāia. The hosts have been fantastic. It's hosted by the Cook Islands in partnership with Kaitāia basketball and Northland."