Irene van Dyk’s Pacific mission

Great work is being carried out in the Pacific to get more children participating in sport. Suzanne McFadden, contributing writer to Newsroom, caught up with Silver Ferns legend, Irene van Dyk,who is fully behind the Pacific Sports Partnership that aims to increase sports participation in the Pacific Islands.

“In Wairoa, they wore gumboots to hear Irene van Dyk teach them the basics of netball. In Fiji, they may be barefoot.

But the netballing legend doesn’t give two hoots about how they’ll turn up when she goes to Suva later this month, to kick-start a $10 million programme aimed at getting more kids playing sport in the Pacific Islands.

‘I just want to see every five- and six-year-old in Fiji, girls and boys, playing netball,’ she says.


Even after retiring from the Silver Ferns three years ago, van Dyk is still international netball’s most-recognised ambassador, so who better to take the first steps in launching NetGO, a programme to get more girls playing netball in the Pacific Islands?

‘It’s such a beautiful thing that Netball New Zealand are doing, and it’s fantastic that nations like Fiji are giving it a go.’ said van Dyk

The programme is being delivered as part of the Pacific Sporting Partnership (PSP) – a deal where the New Zealand government has doled out $10 million, shared between Netball New Zealand and New Zealand Rugby, to get more children in Pacific countries playing their sports. It will be introduced to Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands over the next five years.

The overarching goal isn’t to create more rugby and netball stars like Joe Rokocoko and Vilimaina Davu. It’s to reduce “non-communicable diseases” in Pacific Island children – like asthma and diabetes – by getting them active.

‘I’m so passionate about it, because I’m wholeheartedly convinced that every child should go through a programme like this,’ van Dyk enthuses.

‘It teaches them so much more than just the game of netball. They learn to work together in teams, to listen to their coaches and their peers, how to rehydrate their bodies when they come off the court. There are a lot of life skills in there.’

The PSP also aims to increase awareness among kids, and their parents, of the importance of physical exercise to improve health.”

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