It’s not just the All Blacks and Joseph Parker that have been doing their part to strengthen New Zealand sporting ties with the Pacific Islands recently. Instead of spending their summer holidays laying on a beach or at Rhythm & Vines, two of our SKYCITY Mystics players were spreading the good word of netball in Samoa and Tonga.

Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick headed for Samoa just before Christmas, where she held two sessions with over 40 local players. The first day, Sulu went through some basic defensive and attacking work and also gave the girls a bunch of drills they could do alone or take back to their teams. Then the second day was an opportunity to put things into practice, with game play and trying out different scenarios.

There were plenty of similarities for Sulu, who has Samoan heritage, to working with Kiwi kids, but also some differences. “By the end of the day,” she says, “there was a pile of shoes at the end of the court because the kids preferred being barefoot.”

The clinics, which were hosted by Samoa Netball, were covered by both the Samoan Observer newspaper and by TV1 Samoa.

Around the same time, over in Tonga, Temalisi Fakahokotau was getting set to run a session with some local teenagers. But word got around, and soon there weren’t just some, and they weren’t just teenagers.

“There were over 100 kids there, with the youngest just six,” says Tem. “We made sure that they, along with another 50 adults who’d come to watch, all felt welcome.”

The session, which was hosted by the Tongan Netball Association, attracted plenty of attention, with others in attendance including members of the Tongan netball team, the Tongan netball president, the New Zealand high commissioner, the Australian high commissioner, radio reporters, and Tem’s personal sponsor ‘IslandTime Liahona’, who provided food. Netball North Harbour and others also pitched in with spot prizes for the kids.

“Overall it was a successful day,” says Tem. “No one went home empty handed and everyone was full too. I’ve been asked if I’d return to go to my Dad’s village and do netball clinics there also.”