Tonga will be seeking an inaugural netball gold medal when the Sol2023 Pacific Games competition begins on Monday at Friendship Hall.
Running through until the final day of the Games on Saturday, netball will be contested by nine countries – Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Norfolk Island, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Netball is the only sport at the Pacific Games that is contested solely by women (although mixed netball competitions are popular in some countries in the region).
It has been part of the Pacific Games since 1963, when it was introduced as an optional sport. Over the years, the competition has witnessed the rise of formidable teams, with Fiji emerging as the most successful nation in netball at the Pacific Games.
With an impressive seven gold medals, Fiji has consistently showcased its dominance in the sport. Cook Islands follow closely behind with four gold medals, making them the only other nation to clinch the top spot in netball at the Pacific Games.
However, Tonga will be eyeing a first ever gold at the end of a remarkable year in which they competed at the Netball World Cup in South Africa for the first time, defeating Fiji and other well established netball nations during that tournament.
PNG, who have won a medal at every Pacific Games since 1991 but never gold, will also be eyeing top spot on the podium.
Last time out at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games, Cook Islands won gold, Tonga claimed silver and PNG got bronze. The host nation narrowly missed out on a medal, losing the bronze medal match to PNG.
Friendship Hall is poised to witness intense matches, strategic plays, and passionate displays of athleticism as teams compete for the coveted gold medal. Will Fiji continue its reign as the netball powerhouse, will Cook Islands defend their title, or will Tonga or PNG win a coveted first gold?
The action begins at 8:30am on Monday with Niue taking on Tonga. A Sport City day ticket (available for $30 from Sol2023 ticket booths) or Games pass is needed for entry.
By Francis Pituvaka, Pacific Games News Service