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In July, best friends and Fijian Netball World Cup Reserves, Avelina Navue and Reama Verekauta arrived in Wollongong to call South Coast Blaze home for the next couple of months. 


The girls were offered the opportunity to travel to Australia as part of the PacificAus Sports Immersion Program, designed to develop pathways for emerging athletes from the Pacific Islanders. 


“I figured it would be the best way to learn more skills and get more experience” Verekauta stated. 


Avelina & Reama (Back Left) with some of the SCB squad. [Photo By: May Bailey/Clusterpix Photography]

The program has previously been run in partnership with Netball Queensland. However Netball Fiji reached out to Blaze Open’s Head Coach, and former Fijian International player Marj Parr expressing an opportunity for SCB to join the immersion program. 


During their time at Blaze, both Navue and Verekauta took part in the club’s High Performance Program, participating in training sessions alongside the rest of the Blaze squad, one on one specialist sessions with Strength and Conditioning partner The Coaches Assistant and Blaze Opens Assistant Coach Kim Gilmour as well as making their debut for Blaze partner association, Illawarra District Netball’s Division 1 Metro League team. 


Avelina & Reama with the IDNA Div 1 Metro League Team

However, the girls’ time at Blaze has gone beyond the netball court, spending a weekend in Junee at the hospitality of Blaze Admin Manager, Rob Vergano and his family, they were able to get a taste for sport in rural NSW. 


“Our trip to Junee was one of the best trips we’ve ever had.” Navue exclaimed


Reama enjoying her time during the girls’ farm stay in Junee

Back in Wollongong, they helped out at the Blaze IDNA clinic as well as helped run one of the Blaze Talent Identification Program sessions. This is something the girls explained they were looking forward to continuing back home in Fiji. 


“(We’ll be) helping the younger girls back at home with the programs we’ve been given” Verekauta stated. 


Avelina at the recent Blaze IDNA clinic

Avelina at the recent Blaze IDNA clinic [Photo By: May Bailey/Clusterpix Photography]

During her time at Blaze Navue suffered issues with her ACL, an injury that has been recurring throughout her netball career. She expressed how she initially saw this as the end to her time participating in the Blaze High Performance Program. 


“When I got injured it was a fallback for me. But with help of Maria (Maria Lynch, Blaze High Performance Manager) and Marj, they were … reassuring and telling me this is not the end” 


Navue was able to take part in a specialised rehab and recovery program during the remainder of her time at Blaze. 


Above all their experiences however, it was clear that from their time in Wollongong, both Navue & Verekauta shared one highlight. 


“My favourite part is just staying here, with the boys (Parr’s sons) and with Marj. At night we watch movies together and have dinner together, it’s something” Verekauta explained


“Staying with Marj’s family makes us feel more at home … It’s something we’re gonna miss when we go back. It’s the best part about Wollongong” Navue continued. 


Avelina & Reama with the Parr family & SCB personnel

It’s clear both the girls have had a lasting impact on the Blaze family and created an incredible partnership between SCB and Netball Fiji.