Since its inception in 2010, the Samoan Women’s cricket team have been on a path of gradual improvement.
Regina Lili'i was a member of the original team, and is now the captain of the side. Lili'i adds a great deal of experience to the squad as a regular member of the Auckland Hearts.
For the past few years a handful of the Samoan team have travelled to Auckland to play club cricket with Papatoetoe Cricket Club.
Lili'i says the arrangement was born from a tough situation faced by Papatoetoe.
“Three seasons ago, Papatoetoe were going to lose their premier women’s team, with players retiring and changing clubs. Gary Wood reached out to Samoa Cricket to see if any of their players would want to come over and play club cricket here. They ended up sending four players and with Gary’s help we managed to get a team together.”
It’s an initiative that works well for both Samoa and Auckland Cricket. The players that come over get experience playing in foreign conditions, while Auckland Cricket get to have different players competing in the women’s club competition.
“Last season there were three that were sent over, and this season there was another four. One of the four, Lagi Telea, has come over every season, she’s improved greatly and is now one of the senior players in the Samoan team.”
The Samoan players not only compete in the competition, they excel. One of the players, Serafina Andrew, ended the past season as the third highest run scorer in the Prichard Cup limited overs competition, hitting 244 runs at 48.8.
Lili'i can see the development players get from coming over, something that has transformed the balance of the Samoan team.
“They have just developed so much that there is more depth in our team, and we are not only having to rely on a couple of key players.”
WHITE FERNS coach Haidee Tiffen has connections with multiple players in the Samoan side, even teaching one of the players during her time at Kelston Girls' High School.
Over the years Tiffen has often spent time with the group, giving them an insight into what high-ranking international teams are working on.
“Haidee came and spoke to us for the first time in 2014, at the time she was the Auckland Hearts coach.
“It was massive for the team as Haidee’s focus was talking about team culture, talking about how culture in a team can either make or break a group.”
Eight members of the Samoan Women’s side play for the Papatoetoe women’s team, and during a recent training session the team had another visit from the WHITE FERNS coach.
“It’s fantastic as it’s strengthening their cricket. We want them to have the experience, and to be able to go back to Samoa and share their words of wisdom from their time in Auckland,” Tiffen stated.
“It’s also great for Auckland Cricket, the diversity of the game is something we are always trying to tap into, we want to reach as many people and ethnic groups as we can.”
The Samoan side enjoyed their most successful run to date during the 2015 Pacific Games tournament, where they defeated Papa New Guinea to win the gold medal.
Going from playing village cricket in Samoa to competing at international level tournaments is quite the shift, and Tiffen believes it’s a big step forward.
“I think they are going from strength to strength, which is a credit to the girls, the coaching staff and the Samoan cricket administration to be able to provide opportunities for the Samoan girls to come and play in Auckland.
“They have come a long with in such a small space of time, who knows what could be ahead for them.”
The Samoa Women’s squad have a training camp on the 16th of April, before they head to Japan to compete in the ICC EAP T20.
The tournament is designed to find the top side out of Japan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Vanuatu. The winner of the tournament will gain entry to the 2018 OCC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier.