Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Blackcaps captain awards cricket grant to gifted Tongan sisters

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Fakatava sisters pictured with Blackcaps Captain Kane Williamson. Photo: Supplied
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Anauli Karima Fai'ai | Reporter/Director

Tongan cricketers 16-year-old Siupeli, and 14-year-old Heitonga Fakatava experienced the opportunity of a lifetime when they were awarded an ANZ Cricket Grant by Blackcaps captain Kane Williamson and fellow teammates Tim Southee and Martin Guptill.

They each received a fee subsidy to cover the cost of their registration fees for the season and a gear grant, including a bat, helmet and pads, to ensure they continue playing.

Siupeli and Heitonga, who play for Papatoetoe Cricket Club in Manukau, were grateful to meet their Blackcaps heroes and receive the grant. 

 “We felt so special,” Siupeli says.

“It felt surreal. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask. Kane showed me how to do a ‘straight drive.'”

Heitonga, who loves bowling, was excited to meet Southee, who gave her some bowling tips and taught her how to ‘swing bowl’.

“They are really kind and generous people, and I’m really grateful they took the time to meet us and give us tips,” she says. 

“Me and my sister look forward to our next game so we can put these tips into action.” 

 The Fakatava sisters love to hit the nets on the weekends for practice, and a cricket bat and ball are never far away at family events. Siupeli said she was excited to use the new gear. 

 “We’ve been meaning to buy a new bat for a while. It takes a lot to get new gear, and we’re really happy it’s covered this time,” she says.

The sisters also have a cousin on the team, representing the next generation of Tongan cricketing talent and a force to be reckoned with.

We speak a lot of Tongan in the game, and the opposition don’t know what we’re saying. It’s really good to have family members on the team because they help me,” Siupeli says. 

Last season both sisters made the Manukau Under 16 representative team, with Siupeli smashing a four to make the winning runs. When Siupeli was waiting to bat, she had one thing going through her head. 

 “I was trying to hit it like Martin [Guptill],” she says.

“I was the second to last batter to go out, and it was so much pressure. We only needed a few more runs to win. I didn’t know if I could do it, but everyone was screaming on the sidelines, supporting me. I was so happy and so relieved that it was me that scored the winning runs.”

Heitonga says teamwork keeps her coming back, owing some of her success to the connections she has made in the team.

“When I hit a wicket, everyone celebrates together,” she says. 

Their Uncle Alex Dawber has been integral to their cricket journey. He took them to his games, signed them up to play, and inspired them to keep at it.

“He’s basically a father figure to me, and I’m really grateful to him,” Siupeli says.

“I look up to my Uncle. I’ve seen him bowling and batting, and he’s got a great technique,” Heitonga says.

 Another shining light was their former coach Regina Lili’i, a talented Pasifika cricketer who captains the Samoan cricket team. 

 She was the first Pasifika woman to lead Aotearoa as captain of the New Zealand Women’s Indoor Cricket team and played for the Auckland Hearts.

“She inspires me and is another role model to me. We see a few but not a majority of Pasifika women in cricket. She’s Pasifika like us, so we can relate to her, and she is really enthusiastic about cricket,” Siupeli says.

 ANZ Cricket Grants made $100,000 available to young cricketers who would benefit from the support of registration fee subsidies to help take the pressure off families and make sure kids didn’t miss out on cricket this summer.

 ANZ also surprised several lucky cricketers from around the country to be the recipients of a cricket gear pack to aid them in their dedication to training and the game. 

Williamson says the future of cricket in Aotearoa, New Zealand, is looking bright with up-and-coming talent like Siupeli and Heitonga getting involved in the sport. 

“ANZ’s support of cricket at grassroots level through ANZ Cricket Grants ensures our future White Ferns and Blackcaps squads will be formidable on the world stage, and I look forward to seeing such talent rising through the ranks,” he says.

ANZ Bank New Zealand CEO Antonia Watson says paying club fees is one of the first barriers families face when deciding if they can register their child to play.

“Sport is an essential part of a child’s wellbeing, so we’re pleased to be providing support to make sure Kiwi kids can keep playing the game they love. 

“The increased cost of living can put families in a tough position when it comes to managing the household budget. We hope these grants will help to ease some of that pressure and keep more kids playing cricket.

“We were so impressed by Siupeli and Heitonga’s dedication to training, we hope this new gear helps them to reach their goal.”

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