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When the Pacific Islands' best basketball players take their first shots in the 2023 Pacific Games tournament, two days ahead of the Games' official opening in Honiara on 19 November, there will be plenty of excited Australians wishing them success. 

A mentoring program for basketball coaches in the Oceania region, arranged through the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and Basketball Australia, saw mentors and educators collaborate with national coaches to develop pre-tournament training plans for their elite men’s and women’s teams.

The basketball mentoring is just one of several PacificAus Sports programs Australia has provided in the lead-up to the 17th Pacific Games. Funded by the Australian government, PacificAus Sports aims to unlock the potential of the Pacific’s homegrown talent by sharing Australia’s professional sports expertise and training facilities with the region. 

Olympic qualifiers in Honiara 

The 2023 Pacific Games are on in the Solomon Islands from Sunday 19 November to Saturday 2 December 2023. The event will see 5,000 athletes, officials and staff from 24 countries gather in the capital Honiara to compete in 24 sports including football, athletics, swimming and bodybuilding, as well as traditional Pacific sports like va’a (outrigger canoe) racing.

Adding weight to this four-yearly tournament, it serves as a qualifying event for the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympic Games for several sports, including archery, boxing and table tennis, while it is also a gateway to the FIBA Asia Cup for competing basketball teams.

In addition to sending an athlete contingent of its own – it’s largest ever for a Pacific Games – Australia has also been providing support for Pacific athletes and teams in the lead up to the tournament through its high performance PacificAus Sports program. This has included access to Australian professional sports expertise and training facilities, mentoring programs, and partnerships with leading Australian sporting organisations.

FIBA Fiji / (supplied)

Unlocking the potential of homegrown talent

One of the beneficiaries of the PacificAus Sports program has been Samoa’s Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali, who won silver in the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane and gold at the 2019 Pacific Games. 

Samoa has risen to be the second-ranked boxing nation in Oceania, just behind Australia, due to a thriving sports program called Marist Boxing. Supported by PacificAus Sports, it has forged relationships with qualified Australian coaches and sent talented boys and girls to training camps in Australia. Its commitment to long-term development means the Samoan team may well hold the stars of tomorrow, in the mould of Plodzicki-Faoagali. 

“Big thanks to PacificAus Sports for supporting and funding sports here in Samoa, in particular myself and my sport of boxing,” he said. “Their support goes a long way in helping athletes train and compete at the world level, not just local.”

The partnership with Marist Boxing is just one of several PacificAus Sports programs Australia has provided in the lead-up to the 2023 Pacific Games. Others include beach volleyball in Kiribati, touch football in Samoa and Fiji, weightlifting in PNG, hockey in Fiji, and mentoring and training for basketball right across the Oceania region. Having access to Australian sporting expertise may go a long way towards helping these teams and countries achieve their best ever results at a Pacific Games.

Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali / (supplied)
Kiribati Volleyball team practice / (supplied)

Going beyond athletes

PacificAus Sports is not only focused on athletes, but also on developing the skills of local coaches, trainers and umpires through accredited training. This holistic approach helps to further advance the development of high performance sport across the region.

Catherine Fabiano, who captains the Fijian women’s Hockey5s team, said a Level 2 coaching course she attended in New Zealand in March funded by PacificAus Sports has made an incredible difference – even with how to make simple hockey drills more fun. 

“It had a profound impact on my personal growth as an athlete,” she said. “It also allowed me to make a significant contribution to help my team during our Pacific Games build-up. As an aspiring coach, it allowed me to view things not only from an athlete’s point of view but rather from a holistic perspective.”

In PNG, physiotherapists and massage therapists for high-performance teams have received support to attend workshops to learn sports-specific approaches to injury management and recovery. In the Solomon Islands, PacificAus Sports connected sports professionals with courses from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association, Sports Medicine Australia and the Australian Physiotherapy Association.

Australia is proud to be supporting Pacific athletes and sporting institutions from across the region as they prepare for the 2023 Pacific Games. Providing access to sporting expertise and deeper institutional links with Australian sporting bodies will leave a lasting legacy and benefit future generations of Pacific athletes. 

Australia is also supporting Solomon Islands to host a safe and successful 2023 Pacific Games through a $17 million Pacific Games Partnership and additional security deployments, at the request of the Solomon Islands Government.

Catherine Fabiano (Fiji) with Olympic Umpire Kelly Hudson / (supplied)
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