Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Success on court for Samoa Women’s Basketball brings hope for the future

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Samoa U16 Women’s crowned winners of the FIBA Asian Championship 2022 Division B. Photo: Supplied
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

After the recent success in this year’s International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Under 16’s division, there is no question that Samoa Women’s Basketball is on its way to the top. 

Going into this year’s Under 16 tournament in Amman, Jordan as underdogs, the team overcame the odds and were crowned champions. 

Coach of the Under 16’s Lisa Hogben says, “I was so proud of that team we took. Everyone played their role and contributed to the result. I didn’t really know what to expect, as it was hard to gauge the standard of the competition due to lockdown.”

Hogben, who also coaches the Under 15’s, understands the potential that is within the local basketball scene in Samoa. However, the lack of basic essentials makes the growth of the sport slow. 

This can also pose issues on the administrative side for Hogben, which include selection for teams and fundraising for overseas trips.

“Samoa is a small island with a little to no funding available to support us. For most of our campaign for Under 16’s, each individual was self funded which meant no on court trials or proper training camps.

There is only one gym in Samoa with two courts, however that’s shared between volleyball and basketball. There are no other casual courts where kids/adults can play. It would be great to see hoops in schools or villages,” says Hogben.

The Under 15’s team are currently in preparation for the Oceania tournament in November. The team will be aiming for the gold medal spot, hoping to mirror the same achievements of the Under 16s. The competition will feature heavyweights such as New Zealand and Australia.

Alongside the Under 16’s historical feat this year, the Under 18’s women’s team also clinched a top three finish in their division. The team competed earlier this month in the Under 18’s Women’s Asia Championship Qualifiers. 

A one point loss to Mongolia in the semis brushed the girls off a spot in the finals. However, they managed to secure a third place spot, after defeating the Philippines. 

Head coach June Tahata commended her team’s efforts at the Asia Championship Qualifiers, despite being tipped as the underdogs for the tournament.

“I feel that we are definitely building our Junior Women’s program on the right path,” she said. 

Photo: Samoa Women’s Basketball Facebook

“It’s awesome knowing that we can mix it with national teams from Asia. We fell short by one point to get a chance at qualifying for Division A, but we know that we belong at this level.”

Just like Hogben and the Under 16 team, Tahata also faced similar issues when organising her pool of players. With a short amount of time and other ongoing factors, Tahata had to manage her squad with what she had.

“Without high performance identification camps or Junior Pathway Programs, the recruiting process is harder.”

“We lost two players to injury and sickness, with no reserves to bring in. We had six hours on court with eight players in Brisbane, and one left behind due to visa issues”.

“Taking all these factors into consideration, the task was very difficult for everyone. Nevertheless we pushed through and gave Samoa Basketball everything we had”. 

Through all the adversity, and the many issues they faced, it is adamant that Samoa Women’s Basketball was capable of still achieving greater heights.

Photo: Samoa Women’s Basketball Facebook

It is a feat that both Hogben and Tahata are extremely humbled by, and hope that it can inspire many more young women into the sport. Both coaches are hopeful that the sport can grow in the local scene in Samoa, providing many other athletes great opportunities for their family and community. 

“It’s an experience of a lifetime for the female locals to be part of any National team”, Tahata added.

“Being on a team with other Samoan girls from different places enables them to learn about their culture and how important their identity is to everyone else. It shows dreams can become reality and that it is creating a platform for our girls to dream and reach for the stars!”

As for Hogben, she had nothing but words of gratitude for the ongoing support by the community.

“Thank you for the support given to our athletes and the team. From donations, fundraisers and posts on social media, it all adds to our success. There really is no success without our community. Faafetai lava”

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