By Sasha Pei-Silovo – EM TV, Port Moresby
The stakes are getting higher for the PNG Pepes, as rivals Fiji and Samoa prepare to up their regional and world rankings, at this year’s chapter of the Pacific Games.
Cook Islands are also determined at winning medals, proving that competition will be tough for the PNG girls, despite having home ground advantage.
Competition will be fierce on the netball courts in July’s Pacific Games.
The Cook Islands netball team is looking at bettering their standing in the region.
Coach, Dale Atkinson, says the girls are skilled and talented netballers, however, will need to focus on bringing their level of fitness, strength and conditioning a notch higher, to be able to competitively perform on the international arena.
New Zealand-based Atkinson, over the last few months, has been working on developing a strong game plan and team culture amongst the Cook Islanders.
The 2015 Cook Islands club netball defender of the year, Luciana Matenga, will captain the Cook Islands Black Pearls.
Pacific netball queens, the Fiji Pearls, are aiming high for the games, and the Netball World Cup in Sydney from August 7-16.
Twelve names will be picked from the current squad of 20 to represent Fiji at the world cup.
Skipper of the Fiji Pearls, Mere Rabuka Neiliko, will lead the pearls for what will be her third Pacific Games, as captain.
She has expressed her strong belief in the team, saying they will play to the standards that they are known for.
She added that the team, with strong local talent, had been together for a long time, and this was an advantage they had over other nations.
Currently ranked seventh in the world, the Pearls finished at 13th place at the World Cup in Singapore in 2011.
The PNG Pepes, ranked 19 in the INF World Rankings, continue to train hard for the games. PNG’s biggest threats on court are Fiji, Samoa, who are ranked at 13th place in the world, and Cook Islands.
Following the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby in July is the Pacific Netball Series in June 2016, also in PNG.