2023 Netball World Cup review: Tonga

TONGA was regarded as a nation to watch in the 2023 Netball World Cup, not necessarily in terms of winning, but when it came to upsetting the apple cart. The Tala, which featured a host of players familiar with especially Australian, but also New Zealand and England leagues, won three of its six group matches to finish second overall in Group A.

There, the Tala progressed to Group F, guaranteeing their spot in the fifth to eighth placed playoff by getting past Scotland in an eight-goal win. Even losses to England (26 goals) and Australia (47) – the latter blew out – showed the small nation had what it took to pack a punch and take it up to the more experienced sides.


Group A: 2nd (2-1, -33 goal difference)

defeated Fiji by 5 goals (56-51)
lost to Australia by 47 goals (38-85)
defeated Zimbabwe by 9 goals (55-46)

Group F: 4th (2-3, -65 goal difference)

lost to England by 26 goals (46-72)
defeated Scotland by 8 goals (55-47)
lost to Malawi by 5 goals (51-56)

5th-8th Placed Playoff:

lost to South Africa by 26 goals (46-72)
lost to Malawi by 10 goals (54-64)


Tonga’s eight-goal win over Scotland was one to savour, as the Tala started well, scoring 15 goals to 10. Though Scotland steadied in the second term, Tonga stepped up again after the main break to extend the lead to nine goals. The Thistles hit back in the last but could not bridge the gap and the Tala went home happy, 55-47.

Uneeq Palavi scored 41 goals from 43 attempts in the win, while Luana Aukafolau produced a match-high 22 goal assists. In centre, Hulita Veve had 18 goal assists, one gain, three deflections and one intercept, while in defence, Lose Fainga’anuku stepped up with a whopping six rebounds, six deflections, eight gains and two intercepts.


Without a doubt, Palavi’s work in goal shooter was the major reason Tonga got as far as it did in the Netball World Cup. Having had that experience through the Australian pathways with potential for the future, Palavi shot 241 goals across the tournament, while pulling in four offensive rebounds.


In centre, Veve’s movement was key in getting the ball forward to Palavi or Hansen, with the latter putting up 77 goals at Cape Town. Veve recorded a team-high 20 deflections and 23 intercepts through the midcourt, while Fainga’anuku was a rock in defence with 16 deflections and nine intercepts, second and third in those areas.


Tonga came into the tournament ranked seventh, and while the Tala did ultimately finish eighth, there was not much in it. They had boosted their ranking after impressive regional showings, but took it right up to the majority of nations and if the Tala continue to place a high emphasis on development, have the potential to be a strong nation into the future.

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