onga netball coach Jaqua Heddle (Top Left) and the squad for the 2019 Pacific Nations Cup. Photo: Supplied (RNZ) /Louna Vaka

By Radio New Zealand

The new head coach for Tonga Netball is excited by the chance to grow and develop the sport at the grassroots and high performance levels.

Jaqua Heddle returned to New Zealand last
year to take up the role General Manager of Netball Taranaki, after 26 years
living in Australia.

She spent two decades coaching netball
across the Tasman and in 2016 was named Netball New South Wales coach of the

Heddle is from a Rarotongan and Tahitian
background but said the chance to coach with Tonga was a fantastic opportunity.

“I’m particularly interested in how
Tonga netball are trying to establish a high performance programme and, for me,
starting at the foundation level and being a part of building that programme
with them is really exciting so I’m glad that came about,” she said.

Jaqua Heddle has selected an even mix of
players based in Tonga and New Zealand to compete in the Pacific Nations Cup,
which gets underway in Auckland on Thursday, which she believes will bode well
for their long-term development.

“We have six athletes that are based
in Tonga so that’s really exciting for us and the bigger picture of that is to
be able to develop athletes that are actually residing in Tonga and the
knowledge that they take back and be able to share with their community, which
ultimately is going to increase the skill development level in Tonga,” she

“The other half of our squad are New
Zealand residents so they live here, they’re Tongan athletes…a big part for
us is being able to get them to connect as a team so that they’re competitive
when they go into competition at the end of the week.”

The Kingdom finished winless at last year’s
Oceania World Cup Qualifying tournament but apart from a 35-goal blowout
against Cook Islands proved competitive in matches against Papua New Guinea,
Fiji and Samoa, where the losing margin ranged from eight to twelve goals.

Heddle believed the team has plenty of room
to keep improving on the international stage.

“The short-term plan for us was
obviously preparation for athletes having them in camp for the Pacific Nations
Cup and just gaining some experience for them playing against some nations that
had some skill and it will give them some experience within that space,”
she said.

“Then for us leading into the South
Pacific Games in July: that’s a really important event for us because there is
an opportunity for us to increase our world ranking, which is the ultimate
goal, and it’s going to take some time but I think Netball Tonga are on the
right pathway for that to happen.”

Tonga squad: Amy Latu, Asinate Kolofo’ou, Bella Cocker-Filikitonga, Chesna Sanders, Kataline Naeata, Lavelua Taulahi, Lavinia Lavea, Mia Jones, Maile Manumu’a, Marie Hansen, Selafina Ah Wong, Senivunga Lafo’ou (c).

This article is republished under Kaniva’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.


​Os textos, informações e opiniões publicados neste espaço são de total responsabilidade do(a) autor(a). Logo, não correspondem, necessariamente, ao ponto de vista do Central da Pauta.