Netball Taranaki general manager Jaqua Pori-Makena-Simpson will take a sabbatical to focus on Tonga’s first Netball World Cup campaign.
The Waitara-born coach has been instrumental for Tonga after the country went from not having a world ranking to seventh in 12 months. They went undefeated from 15 matches last year, with wins against World Cup regulars Fiji and Samoa at three separate events.
The results are remarkable for the Pacific Island nation after Pori-Makea-Simpson assembled an unknown team at Sydney Airport ahead of the 2022 Pacific AusSports Netball Series and finished first.
The team went onto the World Cup qualifiers and beat Samoa (69-52), Fiji (59-29) and kept them only to eight goals at halftime to lead 34-8, Papua New Guinea (89-29) and Cook Islands (69-49).
“Even though we had won the Pacific series earlier in the year, this was our coming out moment,” Pori-Makea-Simpson admits.
Those results were key to her winning Sport Taranaki’s coach of the year award in November.
Ahead of July’s World Cup in South Africa, she is busy with regular reviews of squad members in their domestic environments and ensuring players have set baselines and KPI’s which are monitored during the year. She said it will be a challenge.
“Being new to the world stage, nearly all of our opposition is unknown to us and the varying styles will be a challenge,” she said.
“In reverse, we also have the advantage of being unknown to everyone else.”
She admits the intensity of back-to-back matches over 10 days will test their physical readiness. But Tonga will have plenty of opportunities to get fitter.
They will play in a Pacific series hosted by Netball Australia in April and have various camps, which will serve as part of the selection process ahead of the World Cup, Pori-Makea-Simpson said.
At the World Cup, the expectations are clear.
“Reaching a World Cup is a major win for Tonga. We’re sitting seventh and we would expect absolutely no less as a result.”
Her coaching philosophy is simple. Know how to get the best from her team and each person in it, work hard for them, be genuine and be present.
“My coaching journey will be a product of where and how well I am doing that, come as it may.”
Netball New Zealand has supported her into the Core Knowledge Programme with High Performance Sport New Zealand and is supported by high performance staff and coaches here and in Australia.
“Locally, Sport Taranaki has provided a space to meet and learn from other performances coaches in Taranaki,” she said.
That included rubbing shoulders with Taranaki Bulls coach Neil Barnes.
“I was fortunate to step into another code and gain an incredible insight and learn from Neil. I’m looking forward to spending time with basketball in 2023 for further cross-code coach development.”
During Pori-Makea-Simpson’s absence from Netball Taranaki, Shona Glentworth and Janet Fleming will share the general manager position until September.
PacificAus Sports Netball Series locked in
Meanwhile, three countries will make their PacificAus Sports Netball Series debut this April when eight teams compete in the series’ third edition on the Gold Coast.
The series will be held at Gold Coast Sports & Leisure Centre from Monday 24 to Saturday 29 April 2023, with the Opening Ceremony taking place on Sunday 23 April.
For the first time, African nations Kenya, Malawi and Zambia will travel to Australia to compete in the competition against returning teams Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Singapore and dual-series champions Tonga.
Under the PacificAus Sports program and funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the series highlights the skills, talent and athleticism of Pacific netball athletes, and aims to provide high-level competition for the national teams of Netball Australia’s PacificAus Sports partners.
The inclusion of the three African nations provides an opportunity for Pacific partner countries to improve their performance through exposure to teams rarely competed against.
In a benchmark year for netball with the Netball World Cup and Commonwealth Youth Games, as well as the Netball World Youth Cup in 2025, greater diversity of teams in events such as the PacificAus Sports Netball Series aim to improve netball’s international standard.
The series hit Australia for the first time in March and October 2022, to establish itself as a pivotal tournament for international netball teams’ preparation in the lead up to the 2023 Netball World Cup in July.
Netball Australia Executive General Manager of Strategy, Government and Community, Glenn Turnor, welcomed the event’s return.
“The PacificAus Sports Netball Series has solidified its place in the Netball Australia calendar, and we are thrilled to see it continue to grow in 2023,” Turnor said.
“With the largest number of teams competing yet, we expect competition on the Gold Coast to be elevated, showcasing the development of our international contenders and the strength of our relationship with Pacific neighbours.”
The six-day series will see teams split into two pools* with final placings determined across two days of finals. Matches will be played to World Netball conditions.
“The PacificAus Netball Series is a product that brings together small island netball nations to the international stage to learn, share and showcase that we are a strong, competitive spectator sport,” Netball Samoa CEO Rosemarie Lome said.
Despite Netball Samoa not qualifying for the 2023 Netball World Cup, Lome stated the series is still an important event to gain exposure at the international level, presenting an opportunity to improve rankings.
“Participation in the series is a valuable part of our rebuild strategy. Our results at the Oceania Qualifiers were disappointing, however, it has allowed us to step back, reflect and strategise on how to rebuild and come back stronger to achieve our goals of gold at the 2023 Pacific Games, qualifying for the 2026 Victorian Commonwealth Games, and qualifying in the 2027 Netball World Cup.
“The series is also an opportunity to showcase to our World Netball community the quality and competitiveness of netball within our Oceania Netball region which we hope would attract invitations to participate in their tournaments and series.”
PACIFICAUS SPORTS NETBALL SERIES FIXTURE **
Day 1 – Monday 24 April
Samoa v Papua New Guinea – 3.30pm
Tonga v Singapore – 5.30pm
Fiji v Malawi – 7.30pm
Day 2 – Tuesday 25 April
Malawi v Papua New Guinea – 3.30pm
Tonga v Kenya – 5.30pm
Samoa v Fiji – 7.30pm
Day 3 – Wednesday 26 April
Papua New Guinea v Fiji – 3.30pm
Malawi v Samoa – 5.30pm
Zambia v Tonga – 7.30pm
Day 4 – Thursday 27 April
4th Pool A v 3rd Pool B – 1.30pm
3rd Pool A v 4th Pool B – 3.30pm
2nd Pool A v 1st Pool B – 5.30pm
1st Pool A v 2nd Pool B – 7.30pm
Day 5 – Friday 28 April
4th Pool B v 3rd Pool A – 1.30pm
3rd Pool B v 4th Pool A – 3.30pm
1st Pool B v 2nd Pool A – 5.30pm
2nd Pool B v 1st Pool A – 7.30pm
Day 6 – Saturday 29 April
Placing 8th and 7th – 2.00pm
Placing 6th and 5th – 4.00pm
Placing 4th and 3rd – 6.00pm
Grand Final – 8.00pm
* Pool A – Malawi, Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Pool B – Tonga, Zambia, Singapore, Kenya *