Eligibility rules discouraging Pasifika netball representation

Strict eligibility rules are discouraging Pasifika netball players in New Zealand from representing their heritage.

ANZ Premiership teams were restricted to one international import in their squads, with Pacific Island internationals forced to compete alongside high-profile names from the likes of Africa and the Caribbean.

While at international level, players with dual eligibility cannot represent a different nation at consecutive World Cups.

Former Silver Ferns defender Linda Vagana spent eight years coaching Samoa and told The Kiwi Netball Show that, almost a decade on, the same challenges remained.

"It makes me angry really," she said.

"I think the opportunities that we can offer girls right across the board at such a young age to have them, even at ANZ [Premiership] level for instance, girls have to basically make a decision right from there whether they will be on the New Zealand pathway or on a Pasifika pathway and it's hard."

Under Netball New Zealand's selection policy, up to 60 players are selected into regional development squads, with all participants required to commit their international allegiance to the Silver Ferns.

Vagana, who also captained Samoa at the 2003 World Netball Championships, said committing to the New Zealand pathway at a young age had not helped Pasifika girls who could potentially represent their country of heritage.

"When you're trying to improve sport in the Pacific or within Oceania, and I think New Zealand Netball has a lot to play with this and have often been stuck in both camps trying to fight the good fight, but it's getting more difficult."

She was also frustrated to see a lack of Pasifika representation coming through the grades.

"I see at grassroots level a whole lot of girls who could potentially be in some form of a training camp or on that pathway to the ANZ [Premiership] and I guess that's what the Beko League is for, but even at that stage they have to decide from what I understand that they're ready to jump on the New Zealand pathway as opposed to anyone else."

"So we are still missing out on players and that's something that frustrates me when I hear that there are players out there and they're not necessarily wanting to play in the Beko League because they have to make sure that they're on the netball New Zealand pathway."