This week the Pacific Games, the biggest sporting event in the Pacific region, begins, with 24 countries competing in Samoa.
Alyssa-Jean Savelio (Samoan, Ngāti Whatua and Ngāpuhi) has been given the honour of leading the Samoan netball team at the games.
Savelio says, “My highlight going into the Pacific Games after last night is knowing that although my team hasn't been together long we have come a long way. The amount of potential that we have only sets us up for great things for the Pacific Games.”
Savelio's whakapapa links have given her opportunities to play netball for both Aotearoa and Samoa.
“To be able to play the sports that I play for New Zealand and wear the silver fern has been amazing. To be able to play netball for Samoa has been just as great. Playing indoor netball for New Zealand I got to go to South Africa fresh out of high school.”
There are two Samoan national teams competing, the team competing at the Pacific Games and the Netball World Cup team that will compete in England. The netball exhibition game is an opportunity to showcase and prepare the two teams before the big competitions ahead.
Anna Senio, who is also in the team says, “I think with the two teams this year, it's quite a unique year in that the two tournaments are at the same time. So it's had to pull on resources from overseas. It's awesome, it's just lifted the whole profile of netball Samoa even more.”
Savelio's biggest support in netball are her family and it's a bonus she has her two aunties by her side. Her aunty Anna Senio is a former Silver Fern and her aunty Ruta Schwalger is the assistant coach for the Samoa Pacific Games team.
Senio says, “She still calls me aunty on the court but that's cool, I really enjoy playing with her, she is really clever, a smart player and a great shot, a way better shot than me."
Schwalger says, “She's the kind of player that brings others into the game. She's a great connector on the court and off the court. She's very easy going. There is very little that phases her which is great to have in a captain. Yeah, just very proud of her.”
Savelio and her Aunties are passionate about developing netball in Samoa.
“Having the Pacific Games here in Samoa is a great boost for our sport. For the whole week, there is going to be a showcase of the talent from all over the Pacific. So we are lucky our young ones, their parents and their families will be able to witness what the possibilities are for their daughters.”
This Māori and Samoan descendant has big plans and aspirations in the sport of netball.
“You have to work hard, you have to be open to every opportunity, If one door closes another one will open, take a leap of faith and dream big!” says Savelio.