|Posted by Near the Hoop on June 9, 2011 at 7:40 PM|
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.