Birmingham bliss for Pacific athletes rated as one of Pacific’s top sports stories

In England, which was enduring scorching temperatures in the northern hemisphere summer, Pacific athletes were on fire winning a total of 12 medals at the Commonwealth Games.

Samoa won the region's only gold, through weightlifter Don Opolege and the nation's lifters also won three silver medals, and there was also Samoan silver in heavyweight boxing.

Fiji won four medals, two of them in the rugby sevens, but there was some disappointment that neither team could win their respective finals.

Weightlifting brought the only medals for Papua New Guinea and Nauru, Vanuatu gained a bronze from beach volleyball, and one of the stories of the games was when Niue gained its first-ever medal with a boxing bronze.

Pacific netballers didn't qualify for the Games, but there was a remarkable story with the one-time underdogs, Tonga, hitting an unbeaten streak.

They began they year unranked; now, they're the only Pacific team in the world's top 10.

Head coach Jaqua Pori-Makea-Simpson pulled together players from across Australia and New Zealand in order to gather a squad together.

"Most of us met for the first time at Sydney airport," she said.

The Tala's lift-off began in March, in Sydney at the first of two PacificAus Netball tournaments which they won.

Four months later, they had another undefeated tournament at the Oceania Championships, taking down traditional powerhouse Fiji 68-54 in the grand final.

That secured qualification for the 2023 Netball World Cup, being held in South Africa, for the first time with Fiji joining them.