Those volleyball golden days in Porirua
Alex Aiolupotea Pei got the shock of his life last week when a member of his family sent him a Kapi-Mana News photo from 1996.
The former Porirua resident, who lives in Queensland, was a regular volleyball player in his younger days.
He said the sport had a huge following in Porirua 20 years ago, and believed it still did today.
Along with turning out for the Phoenix club, Pei was part of a Porirua Seventh-Day Adventist Church volleyball side that cleaned up at the church’s nationals in 1996 and 1997.
It was a photo of that 1996 team, containing Pei, that we put on our Facebook page last week.
We had no names or context for the photo, but several people came to the rescue, identified the team and gave us Pei’s contact details in Australia.
‘‘When I was sent the photo, I was shocked,’’ Pei said. ‘‘I was like, ‘What the heck! Who are those young guys?’ We were looking good back then. We’re a bit older now.’’
The photo was taken before the team left for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church volleyball nationals over Labour Weekend in 1996 in Palmerston North.
It was the first year such a tournament was held, Pei said.
He said the competition was strong in the A grade, but the team knew each other well, had all played to a high level – with team member Vai a Samoan representative – and their skill and team-work counted in the end.
Pei said there were several grades at the tournament and it was a very social occasion.
‘‘You had so many people coming from Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington – all over New Zealand – in buses and vans. The games were fierce, but
FLASHBACK ‘‘The games were fierce, but it was also a chance to see family and catch up with old friends.’’
it was also a chance to see family and catch up with old friends. It was a great time for everyone and as far as I know this [volleyball competition] is still running and still growing.’’
Pei’s team re-formed in 1997 and defended their title.
Growing up in Porirua, volleyball, along with other traditional sports like rugby, was incredibly popular among church groups and Pacific Island people, Pei said.
‘‘Every chance we got we were playing, whether it was at Windley School or up at the [Waitangirua] mall. It was fun and a way to bring people together. We came home from work and then we’d go play.’’
Pei said the 1996 team members stay in occasional touch, but half of them are living in Australia now.
‘‘We’re all a bit bigger and a bit older than we were in that photo. We get together now and again and we’re all P Town boys, so we have that connection.’’
The 1996 Porirua Seventh-Day Adventist Church volleyball side was, back row, from left, Sonny Jackson, Vai Aiolupotea Pei and Alex Aiolupotea Pei. Front row, from left, Ina Siaosi, Simoo Faleafaga and Tom Kuresa.