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Gold Eludes Grasp of the Pepes

Posted by Near the Hoop on July 21, 2015 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The Pepes missed out on taking home Gold on Saturday afternoon as Fiji turned in their A game in the medal final to blast away our Pepe's showing exactly why they are ranked 7th in the world.   In front of a perochial PNG home crowd, they imposed their will on an awestruck Pepe's outfit never really moving out of third gear and using all their avaialble players to upset PNG in their quest for Gold at these games.

The Pepe's opened the game very much abreast of their arch rivals and even traded nets in the early part of the game. They only trailed the Pearls by a few nets at the first exchange much to the delight of the home crowd and the anticipation then was that it could be a tight finish but then the Fijians decided in the second and third quarters to drive home a message and for a short stint of perhaps 10 minutes the Fijians just went to town opening up a 10, then 15 and for a short while an 18 net advantage over PNG and from then on it was never likely for teh Pepe's to claw back the deficit.

PNG definitely had the goods and lets not take anything away from the Pepe's effort, they put everything into the game especially the two defenders near the hoop. They played their hearts out however the Pearls just used their height, reach and endurance advantage and when they weaved a bit of the Bula magic into the mix it wasn't long before shazam,  the game was over red rover.........

PNG's percentage was high given the amount of ball and pressure Tiata Baldwin and captain Lua Rikis were under, and when they had the ball they were doing things, but the agility and continued high gear the Fijians played at simply overwhelmed the Pepe's today.

Final score PNG 51 Fiji 68

Fiji were deserved winners of the gold as PNG had to settle for Silver.

Pepe's Hold on to beat Samoa - Pacific Games 2015

Posted by Near the Hoop on July 16, 2015 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

The PNG Pepe's impressed on Wednesday evening when they held on to win a tight contest against Samoa in their pool match in front of a very parochial home crowd.  In the audience this eveing was the PNG Prime Minister, Hon Peter O'Neil and Mrs O'Neill, PNG's Sports Minister, Hon justine Tachenko and the Minister for National Planning and Monitoring, Hon Charles Abel.  The trio were seated court side and enjoyed a very focused performance by the national side.  Samoa have always been a nemesis for PNG, and the best of competitive rivals but Wednesday night belonged to PNG, as captain couragous, Lua Rikis led her charges with absolute resolve to provide fans a wonderful display of fast and furious netball.

The Pepe's had to claw back a 6 net deficit in the first quarter to lead at the break 30 - 28 and held onto the lead for both the 3rd quarter and full time in what was a nailbiting encounter.  3rd Qtr, 46-43 4th Qtr, 62-54.

It was a valiant effort and by no means a walk through the park as the Samoans worked as hard as they could to counter and overhaul this narrowest of margins and a relieved Lua Rikis had nothing but priaise at how the Pepe's held fast against a fast finishing flash of Blue much to the glee of a obvliously PNG home crowd. 

PNG play Fiji on Friday.

Too Big, Too Strong - Fiji Takes Pacific Series Championship in Style

Posted by Near the Hoop on June 9, 2011 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Fiji showed the City of Port Moresby yesterday why they are the Pacific Netball Champions and ranked 5th in the world in the sport.  Too big and too strong PNG’s Melanesian cousins put on display agility and strength at the expense of agallant Pepe side and in front of a very parochial PNG home crowd.

Fiji had the game under its control right from the first whistle, forcing the Pepe’s into turnovers early in the first quarter and scooting off to a comfortable lead in a blink of an eye. Aggressive defence by the Fijian midcourt had the Pepe’s in all sorts of bother but PNG’s strength near the hoop with Lua Rikis and Maleta Roberts finding the net in the late exchanges of the first quarter brought the best out of anappreciative home crowd.

It didn’t take much to set the crowd alight and each time thePNG attack found its way into the Fijian zone and every time the ball was lodged in the net, the roar of the fans resonated miles away.

For three days, Fiji’s dominance of the game in the South Pacific was on full display for fans of netball to see and marvel at.  The Cook Islands, Samoa and their very professional approach to the pregame and post game warm up and warm downs, not a feature of the game in PNG, certainly had netballers reflecting on their own practice.   The confidence they exuded would no doubt make them competitive at next months World Championships in Singapore.


Above: action int the PNG red zone as raid after raid kept Nisha Omi (GK) and Lama Lui (GD) busy but to their credit PNG made a contest of each posesion.

Playing at this level and especially with our Pacific neighbours has always been a physical tussle.  Veterans like Lua Rikis and Maleta Roberts knew what was waiting for them before they even stepped onto the court.  Fiji are big, especially in the forward and defensive pockets and the only way to get possession in this game is to claim the ball.  The contest between the shooters and defenders throughout the series, let alone this game, is another element of the game absent at the local club level, so the reaction of netballers watching the game was an interesting one as Fiji muscled and outtussled PNG for possession.   This part of the game at international level is physically draining and must have been an eye opener for many proponents of the sport that espouse the non contact nature of the game and was certainly a talking point by spectators as they left the stadium.

A confident President of Netball Fiji, Mrs Bogidrau, commented during day two of the  tournament that the Championship of this tournament was pretty much assured and the focus now for Fiji was Singapore.

Leading by example, captains Matila Waqanidrola (GK) for Fiji and PNG’s Lua Rikis (GA) worked hard to push their charges to work aggressively for the ball, so it was not surprisingly that the contest between the two when they did cross paths was a very physical one, in an athletic context of course.   On court as they do off it, the two have a healthy respect for each other as athletes. 

PNG’s midcourt, obviously still a work in progress afte rMona Lisa Leka’s retirement, showed up a lack of structure and space options,something the Cook Islanders, Samoans and Fijians quickly took advantage of over the three day tournament, making the going hard work for our centre/wing attackand wing defence/centre combinations.   It was here that PNG conceded the majority of its turnovers.

 Jessie Logo, having sat out the last two days on the bench must have been holding her breath and looked like she was going to burst when asked to warm up.  The young New Guinea Islander the first since the days of Kilala Owen, was surprisingly strong under the net in the secondquarter but clearly lacked the big game experience.  With one senior cap under her belt, she willno doubt mature and build up her own game style.  Her height and reach are attributes which will provide her with  opportunities if she sets her mind to it and goes on to use them.  LamaLua, Marypaul Buehler and Jessie all played above their personal bestthroughout the tournament despite what was always going to be a tough day atthe office.

Fiji also used up their full bench and were forced to make achange to their attacking line up after their lofty shooter, Elenoa Vatureba  injured her knee in the PNG zone in the secondquarter.

As expected Afa Rusivakula was always strong at the net forFiji as was Vatureba until her injury.

Fiji's record against Samoa on Tuesday morning was a tight tussle but again Fiji were able to run away with the game in the final quarter.  The Cook Islanders took the game to the Fijians in the second game of the series on Wednesday night but again the Fijian attack stepped up a notch late in the turn and also running away with that game.

The final score line in the final game against PNG 72 – 34, indicative of where the two countries are currently positioned in the world rankings.



Coca Cola's "Natures Own" announces sponsorship of Pacific Netball Series

Posted by Near the Hoop on April 29, 2011 at 10:58 AM Comments comments (1)


Coca Cola joined the drive today to stage perhaps the most important international fixture for the PNG Netball Federaton in a long while.


It announced at a press conference for the media that its brand "Natures Own" water would support Netball PNG (PNG Netball Federation) with a timely sponsorship package for the Pacific Netball Seried worth some K25,000.


CCA Regional Manager for Southern, Mr steve Woods said is is important to support women in sport and with the best of the Oceania Regions netballers contesting the Series on PNG's home turf, it was only appropriate we align this with PNG's very own "Natures Own" water.


Coca Cola Amatil PNG will be given exclusive beverage rights to the tournament as the "official Drinks" sponsor.  The package would be split K15,000 in cash and K10,000 in CCA product.


The 3rd Pacific Netball Series will be held in Port Moresby from 6th to 10 June 2011.  World ranked teams Fiji, Samoa and the Cook islands will take part in the contest.


Netball PNG, represented by President julienne Leka-Maliaki, Chairman of the event's Organisining Committee, Wayne Dorgan and Pepe's head coach, Pole Kassman were happy with Coca Cola's commitment and acknowledged the worlds most popular beverage recognition of women in sports.


Committee Chairman Wayne Dorgan thanked CCA for their generosity, on behalf of the Federation.  "We are extremely grateful that Coca Cola value the merit in promoting and empowering women  of all ages through netball and we pledge to be transparent and accountable for your valuable sponsorship kina."


"This will be a real celabraion of women in sport with 84 international athletes, technical officials and administrators gearing up to show the passion and skill in which netball is played in the South Pacific."



Sports Scene take on Alu and Nisha.

Posted by Near the Hoop on April 29, 2011 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (0)

If you were watching EMTV last night you would have seen two smartly dressed athletes representing netball on the first segment of Sports Scene.  The pair, Alurigo Opina and Nisha Omi were making a splash as guests on the show after returning from Singapore two weeks ago.


Both PNG internationals had been invited to talk about their experience while under contract by Netball Singapore for a 5 weeks stint playing in Singapore's Super League tournament.

Alurigo Opina (left) and nisha Omi (centre) on set with Api Kassman.


Both stars conducted themselves well , even the tedy bear in corner, and discussed their exciting stay in Singapore with confidence.  Their foray into international netball was a first for PNG netball and hopefully a template for things to come in the future.


Last nights efort  is the first of what is expected to be series of appearances by netballers in the lead up to the Pacific Netball Series to improve the profile of the sport and to television's viewing public.  Alu and Nisha impressed so expect to see them appearing on several more segments.


Both Alu and Nisha have been selected in the new Pepe's lineup that will take on the queens of Oceania netball in early June.



Pepe's and Development Squad Named

Posted by Near the Hoop on April 24, 2011 at 10:46 AM Comments comments (0)

The PNG National Netball Team, the Pepe's and reserves were named today at the close of an arduous two day selection trials at Port Moresby's Bisini Courts.  A Development Team and reserves was also named.

While many of us were contemplating what the second day of Easter would bring for us, thirty odd trialists for the Pepe's and the National Development Team were assembling in the early morning to start what was to be two fairly strenuous days of assessment and decisions for Netball PNG.  The trials which started at 7:00 am on Saturday morning included a second fitness and skills test for the 32 hopefuls.   The trials conducted under watchful gaze of head Coach Pole Kassman and two full panels of selectors, looked at both the core fitness of the trialists and their court skills.



In a departure from the original concept of a Pepe's Team and a U21 Team, Netball PNG has opted for the selection of two teams, the first being the Pepe's and a second being a Development Team which promoting the concept of development of a talent pool of first rate netballers.

The trialists included Australian based players and current Pepe's, Richanda kassman and Cheryl Renagi and players selected in both the senior and U21 divisions at the the last National Championships held in Madang.


Due to match commitments in Australia, Maleta Roberts and Tiata Baldwin were not able to attend these trials, however their fitness records have been made available to the Netball PNG selectors..   Yvonne Magutau withdrew just prior to the trials citing fitness issues as did Michelle Geitz, whos is still favouring her ankle after a serious injury last year.

The teams are as follows

The 2011 PNG Pepe's

(above) the 2011 PNG Pepe's.  Not present, Maleta Roberts and Tiata Baldwin


Maleta Roberts (Bne), Tiata Baldwin (Bne), Marie Otio (POM), Mary-Paul Buehler (POM), Albertine Ehari (POM)

Mid Court

Alurigo Opina (POM), Richanda -Leigh Kassman (Bne), Cheryl Renagi (Lismore Aust), Lama Lua (POM), (Rhoda Kerea) (Central)


Lua Rikis (POM), Winnie Mavara (POM), Nisha Omi (Madang), Nancy Kapi (POM), Jessie Logo, (POM)

The Development Team

(above) The 2011 National Development Team


Albertine Ehari (POM), Agnes Lucas (Alotau), Paruru Vaieke (Motu Koita West), Dorccus Ilagi (Central), Rhoda Kerea (Central)

Mid Court

Gase Moka (POM), Rava Agi (POM), Stacey Alu (Madang), Philomena Naime (Kairuku Hiri), Boio Rei (Motu Koita West)


Jessie Logo (POM), Tau Galewa (Central), Linessah Pouna (Alotau), Kinibo Baroa (Lagatoi), Raylene Andrew (POM)

Captains of the respective sides were not named by Netball PNG (PNG netball Federation)

Teams commence training Monday morning for their respective international engagements.  The Pepe's have the task of hosting the Pacific Netball Series in Port Moresby from 6 - 10 June 2011 and the Development Team will attend Sydney later in June to contest the NSW State Championships.

Pepe Duo to Face Off in Singapore Super League

Posted by Near the Hoop on April 11, 2011 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Pepes defender Nisha Omi and centre Alurigo Opina are on target with their preparations in the lead up to national selections for the Pepes over the Easter long weekend, for the upcoming Pacific Series in Port Moresby in June, against Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Is.

The duo have turned in exceptional performances during the Singapore Netball Super league over the last 5 weeks and are now lined up against each other for the grand final show-down to be played on Saturday 16 April 2011 between the Nike Marlins and Blaze Dolphins. Nisha’s team the Nike Marlins will meet Blaze Dolphins, Alurigo’s team in the grand final and the encounter is expected to be another exciting one, with only several goals separating the two teams each time they’ve met during the season and in last Saturday’s major semi-final. The Pepes duo have been part of Netball Singapore’s bold move to include a foreign player in each of the 6 competition teams with players also having come from Fiji and Tanzania.


(above) Alurigo Opina and Nisha Omi playing for PNG at the recent

Commonwealth Games in New Delhi

According to the Head Coach of the Singapore National Team, Kate Carpenter, "both Alu Opina and Nisha Omi will feature for their respective teams in the Netball Super league grand final on Saturday. Alu's inclusion in Blaze Dolphins team has added a dynamic element to the centre court play, while Nisha has been best in combination in the defence circle in combination with Jean Ng, the Singapore National captain" In receiving the news, PNG Netball President, Julienne Leka-Maliaki welcomed the good news and expressed her appreciation to Netball Singapore for the opportunity provided to both players and PNG Netball, and is optimistic of continuing this partnership program with Singapore Netball in the future.

“The President echoed PNG Netball’s support and well wishes to the two girls, stating that netballers in the country are excited and encouraged by their outstanding performance and we look forward to their imparting the knowledge, experience and skills gained to their fellow members upon returning to PNG on 18 April 2011.

Story provided by Netball PNG

Pepe's on Contract prepare for Singapore

Posted by Near the Hoop on March 10, 2011 at 8:37 AM Comments comments (2)

In December 2010, Near the Hoop ran a story on the prospects for two current Pepe's to spend some time in Singapore training and playing with and against the Singapore national team as part of their preparation for the World Championships that Singapore will host later this year.

Happily we report that all the paperwork has been done and the two players leave for Singapore next week on 17th March 2011.

The two players requested for by the Singaporeans and cleared by Netball PNG, are 21 year old midcourt attacker Alurigo Opina and 20 year old Defender, Nisha Omi.  Both will be part of a contingent of some six players from the Oceania region and Africa, recruited by the Singapore national team to assist with their preparations for the July World Championships.

Both Alurigo and Nisha will play in Singapore's Super League competition and train with the national side to provide their players with decent opposition in their lead up to July 2011.  It will be as much an eye opener for them as it will be for the Singaporeans and provide invaluable outside experience for the pair.

Whilst there, they will be continuously monitored to ensure they keep up their nation selection training programs, as both will be available for selection for the Pacific Netball Series.  They will also be ambassadors of  the sport and the country and acccordingly they will be expected to carry themselves with the highest level of discipline and pride.


(above left) Nisha Omi seen here in her playing for the Mermaids in POMNA premier

division and Alurigo Opina (above right) who plays mid court for the POMNA club, the Sparrows.

When asked, both sets of parents spoke with pride of  their daughters achievements and understandably were a little worried at the same time, as this would be an assignment in which their children were traveling on their own to a different country and not under the umbrella of a team as they normally would when travelling with the Pepe's. 

Vincent Omi, who works with Telikom in Madang was partcularly philasophical saying that the experience will help round out Nisha's overall profile as a player, adding that Nisha's hard work was now paying off and the sacrifices the family had to endure was bearing fruit in Nisha's achivements in the sport.  With seven girls in the family, the Omi's are avid netters like their mother and look to Nisha as their beacon of hope and inspiration but encouraging her in her success despite their own economic circumstance.

Mrs Omi extended her heartfelt gratitude to Pole Kassman and the Kassman family for assisting with Nisha's upkeep whenever she has been required to be in Port Moresby and for supervising Nisha's training programs, that has ensured she remains competitive. "We are a family of netters so it is with the greatest pride that we watch Nisha's success" said Nisha's mother.   The family has had to do things tough and appealed to prospective sponsors to consider the special needs of  netball talents based outside Port Moresby, especially when it comes the travel of these players as and when they are required to take up representative duties.  But the netball madness doesn't end there for the Omi's because it seems another Omi, Miriam, has also been asked to train for qualification and possible selection to the Pepe's squad this year.



Alu Opina, from which young Alurigo Opina obviously takes her name, like Vincent, is well pleased at the success of his only daughter among  a brood of boys but looks at this assignment as an important part of Alurigo's career in Netball.  "Learn all you can my daughter and bring that knowledge back to do your part in developing netball here" he tells Alurigo, be careful and work hard and remember that what ever you and Nisha do, it will reflect on all netballers from Papua New Guinea.

The Opina's are less fearful of the pairs stay in Singapore, as they are confindent that their old friend, Kate Carpenter, who is now the head coach of the Singapore national side,  will remember her time with sport in PNG.  She was head coach for the PNG Pepe's in 1997 and 1998 and is a close friend of Margaret Opina, Alu's mother.  "Kate is an old friend and we know she will keep an eye out for our girls"

Bios of both players can be seen on Netball PNG's sportingpulse webpage.  Simply click on the link to take you there.

Our congratulations go to both players,  We wish them a wonderful journey and for their safe return.

PNG Slips on IFNA's International Ranking

Posted by Near the Hoop on January 8, 2011 at 11:37 PM Comments comments (0)

As predicted the new IFNA rankings are out and yes PNG has slipped to 17th.  However, the recent Nations Cup in Singapore did not quite give the Scots and Welsh as big a boost in the rankings as first thought, as they shared a win each against each other. 

Singapore also fared poorly due to a loss to a lowly ranked Tanzania, slipping back to 19th and losing ranking points to now have a total of 48 points.

The good news for PNG is that we are still only 1 win away from getting back to 13th spot, and 3 wins from 12th. 

It also appears some of the higher ranked countries may be opting to protect their rankings by not playing games.  Eventually, this strategy proves not to be a smart one.

Click on the link to take you to the IFNA ranking page.

IFNA World Rankings


Article by Mike Petrides

It's PNG's Turn to Host Pacific Netball Series

Posted by Near the Hoop on December 17, 2010 at 9:03 AM Comments comments (2)


Those following the Pacific Netball Series will know that Papua New Guinea has the opportunity to host the event in 2011 as part of the round robin process.

The Pacific Netball Series is an IFNA sanctioned annual tournament and pits the best four countries in the region against each other for the purpose of assessing the level of competition coming from this region and ranking at the world level.

Currently the top four nations in the region includes PNG (ranked 15th).  The others are Fiji (currently ranked 5th in the world), Samoa,( ranked 9th) and the Cook Islands (ranked 11th)

It is understood that Netball PNG (PNG Netball Federation) has already commenced the dialogue processes with the PNG Sports Foundation, who are the custodians of the Sir John Guise Indoor Stadium, the NCDC Governor’s office who will be the host City and the Oeania Netball Federation (ONF) who are IFNA’s lead agency for the region to ensure facilities are adequate for the tournament.  Discussions with sponsors and the netball officialdom will proceed from these discussions.

The Pepe’s were unlucky in June this year being pipped at the very end of each game.  In the process they missed the opportunity to attend the World Championships in Singapore next year.

The Pacific Netball Series will bring the regions big guns of netball to PNG which for netballers will be an opportunity of a lifetime to see the Pacific’s heavyweights in action against the Pepe’s on home soil.  It will also provide umpires and coaches the opportunity to see umpiring at the international level and the tactics coaches employ to manage their games and for the enthusiasts it will allow you to enjoy netball at the top level and the competition that will push the Pepe’s to their highest potential.

Though Australia and New Zealand and perhaps those countries that make the worlds top 5 countries play at a slightly higher level, many if not all of the women on the Samoan, Cook Island and Fijian national teams play on a full time basis in Australia and New Zealand’s professional and tier 1 competitions,  travelling back to their countries only to play for their national teams when required.  Australia and New Zealand are ranked No1 and No2 in the world.

In order for Papua New Guinea to host the PNS, criteria especially regarding the playing and training facilities will have to be considered adequate by IFNA/ONF.  The only facility suitable for such a tournament is the indoor stadium at the Sir John Guise facilities in Waigani.  Whether or not this will be accepted by IFNA will depend on whether or not the appropriate refurbishments will be committed to by the PNG Sports Foundation and the NCDC.

There should be some news on this in the next few weeks.

When Near the Hoop spoke to her this week, Julienne Leka-Maliaki, President of Netball PNG (PNG Netball Federation) was confident that PNG would host the series next year.  The PNG Sports Foundation and NCDC were not available for comment.